Some actors have a real talent for playing nasty bastards.
I don’t think any actor really sets out to be the villain. Most actors I think have ambitions to be the leading man, the hero, but for whatever reason some just get pigeon holed into being the baddie. Not that that’s a bad thing of course as whilst the actor playing the hero may get top billing most of the time, often the character audiences are most interested in seeing is the evil villain and in this article I am going to run through what I feel to be the best villain actors.
Now before we start I want to make some things clear. First of all as always this is only in my opinion, I’m not pretending to speak for anyone else here.
Also the rules for being included on my list are as follows. You have to have played at least 4 villains. For this reason Heath Ledger sadly will not be included on this list. Obviously as the Joker, Ledger was one of the greatest villains in cinema history, but the Joker was his only villain role and thus you wouldn’t really say he was a villain actor at any point in his career. The Joker was the exception, and indeed his performance as the villain is often used as the greatest example of an actor being cast against type being successful.
Similarly Henry Fonda though also responsible for one of cinema’s vilest villains in Once Upon A Time in the West will also not be included in this list as again that was another example of an actor who normally plays sympathetic roles being cast against type and it being hugely successful.
Not all of the actors on this list are exclusively villain actors either. Some may even be known for playing heroes just as much, but in order to be a candidate you have to have played a fair amount of villains.
The actors on this list will not be listed in terms of who is the best actor, or even who is the best villain, but simply who has played the most villains. We shall start out with actors who have played a few big villains, and gradually move to actors who were typecast as villains almost to the point where you would struggle to name a heroic role they played.
I will also be doing a top 30 villain actresses lists later, so there will be no women on this list.
Lets get started then.
30/ John Hurt
Badguy roles: Caligula (I Claudius), The Horned King (The Black Cauldron), Adam Sutler (V for Vendetta), The Great Dragon (Merlin)
John Hurt as I have said before is an actor who has never really been typecast. Throughout his incredible career spanning 6 decades Hurt has played just about every type of character from the hero to the comic relief to the villain to the victim to the wise old mentor.
Many of the roles people would associate him with couldn’t be less villainous such as the Elephant Man, Quentin Crisp, Kane, the Doctor and Mr Ollivander.
Still despite this throughout his long career he has created a number of memorable evil characters too.
His most famous bad guy role is as Caligula in the classic miniseries I Claudius. Hurt’s performance as the twisted Roman emperor is comparable to Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee’s as Count Dracula in that everything we think of as Caligula comes from Hurt’s stellar performance. In real life whilst some suspect Caligula slept with his sisters and Robert Graves novel hints that he killed one of them, he never impregnated his favourite sister, nor did he devour the fetus from her stomach. Yet despite that we always hear about how Caligula ate his child in popular culture. One episode of Red Dwarf lists it as a historical fact when its not it comes entirely from Hurt’s portrayal.
Hurt’s Caligula has got to be one of the most evil and twisted villains in any work of fiction. As a child he murders infants, other children, slaves, small animals, and eventually his own father who he both poisons and frightens to death, he also burns his own house down when his aunt sends him to his room after she finds him playing sex games with his sister!
When he grows up he goes on to sleep with all three of his sisters, and his great grandmother, whom he also tortures, and molests on her death bed when she is gasping for air. He then along with Tiberius his uncle and adopted father organizes a gigantic slaughter of the population, with hundreds of innocent people’s bodies being dragged through the streets, including even children (one of whom is raped!)
Not long after this he then murders Tiberius and becomes the emperor. He later goes completely insane and actually believes he is Zeus the king of the Gods!
Now believing he is a god Caligula has a young boy whose cough irritates him mutilated and then his head sliced off, forces one of his most loyal senators to kill himself and then marries his favourite sister Drusilla whom he impregnates and later kills by slicing her stomach open with a knife and then eats their unborn child!
He continues to impose a brutal and bloody reign of terror on Rome for years killing hundreds more people on a whim before a group of his own men kill him simply to avoid being victims of his own senseless cruelty.
Hurt’s Caligula not only influenced how we saw the Roman emperor, but it also inspired a number of other similar deranged villains in popular culture including John Simm’s version of the Master in Doctor Who. Simm’s version of the Doctors archenemy was driven mad by a constant drumming in his head just like Hurt’s Caligula. I also often wondered if this song by Florence and the Machine about someone being tormented by a drumming in their head was perhaps in part inspired by Hurt’s Caligula.
Emperor Cartagia in Babylon 5, and Judge Cal from Judge Dredd were also inspired by Hurt’s version of Caligula.
I think in many ways Hurt’s Caligula was the first really crazy villain in the history of television. Nowadays we are used to villains like Mark Hamill’s Joker, Jerome from Gotham, the Simm Master, Callisto from Xena, and Missy. Gleefully evil, cackling, almost child like, completely psychotic, total monsters who kill on a whim and carry out not only the most horrific, but the most unpredictable crimes too. You never know what is going to happen next with villains like this. They can do something one minute that makes you wince in horror, then the next is so crazy it almost seems silly and makes you laugh. No one is safe from them, one minute they might turn on and torture and kill their most loyal and beloved follower or servant for no reason.
Naturally villains like this are always the most popular as there is never a dull moment when they are around, but I think Hurt’s Caligula was really the first type of villain that we saw like this on television. Remember that Cesar Romero’s Joker was the only adaptation of the Joker pre Hurt’s Caligula and he was merely a harmless prankster.
Another one of Hurt’s big villain roles was the Horned King in the Disney movie The Black Cauldron. The Horned King is unlike most Disney villains in that he really belongs more in a horror movie.
He is a hideous, zombie/Demon like monster that has pet dragons and plans to create an army of Zombie monsters to destroy all life on the planet!
Hurt also provided the voice for Kilgharrah the Great Dragon in Merlin. Now Kilgharrah is not an out and out villain like Caligula and the Horned King.
He walks a fine line between villain and hero for most of the series and his reasons for going evil are also understandable too. Prior to the start of the series Uther Pendragon, a cruel merciless tyrant chains him, using magic chains beneath the city of Camelot where he remains for 20 years completely alone. At the start of the series he contacts Merlin and tells him that he and Uther’s son Arthur are destined to build a great kingdom and bring magic which Uther had outlawed back to the land.
However throughout the series the Dragon is shown to be a somewhat untrustworthy character whose reasons for helping Merlin are revealed to be simply so that he will one day be free when Arthur is king. In the second series he becomes the main villain, slowly manipulating Merlin and being responsible for Morgana’s turn to evil when he tells Merlin that he must kill her to save Camelot (even though she is innocent at that point) Later when Merlin is forced to free him in exchange for advice he tries to burn the entire kingdom to the ground to punish Uther for his imprisonment. He kills dozens and dozens of innocent people, roasts most of Camelots knights and nearly kills Arthur himself before Merlin finally manages to stop him.
After this Kilgharrah redeems himself and later saves Merlin in gratitude for sparing his life after his rampage. Kilgharrah continues to help Merlin until the series end becoming one of his closest friends.
Despite the fact that he redeems himself the Dragon is still really the main villain in the second series and certainly the big bad in the season 2 finale.
Also some fans consider him to secretly be the main villain of the entire series. This fan theory which originated in the following article states that actually Kilgharrah lied to Merlin about he and Arthur’s destiny’s as part of a calculated plot to bring about the end of the Pendragon dynasty.
See here The Kilgharrah Conspiracy
That is an awesome read and the funny thing is it makes complete sense. It does explain why Kilgharrah’s prophecy about the golden age never came to pass and why Aithusa a small white Dragon that was supposedly loyal to Kilgharrah healed Morgana Merlin’s archfoe when she was dying. Sadly I don’t think that is what the writers intended, but if it is then the show is even better than I thought!
Hurt’s other big villain role is that of Adama Sutler in V for Vendetta, a ruthless fuhrer like figure who rules over a fascist Britain but is ultimately turned on and killed by his own followers.
I think that Hurt is really the best when it comes to playing tyrants. Whenever he is the villain or even just a sleazy, unsympathetic character like Alan Clarke he usually tends to be in a position of power, which is ironic as when he is the good guy he is often the victim of fascist or unfair societies like Winston Smith or Quentin Crisp.
Other villains he has played who are in positions of power include Mr Mole in the animated movie Thumbelina, Sailor John in the Thomas and Friends special, Sodor’s Legend of the Lost Treasure, General Woundwort in the Watership Down animated series and Lord Percival Grraves in King Ralph.
He is the ultimate tyrannical villain in my opinion and that’s why he earns a place on my list.
Drusilla/ I Claudius
Caligula’s favourite sister, initially she is a willing participant in their incestuous relationship, but after Caligula goes completely insane she becomes terrified of him and only goes along with his sick desires to save her own life.
Later when she becomes pregnant she believes she can use it against him. This backfires on her rather considerably when Caligula chains her up and slices her belly open and eats the fetus. Caligula does this as he believes that he is Zeus and thus tries to emulate the myth where Zeus plucked his daughter Athena from his wife Metis’s stomach and swallowed it and the child later sprang from his head as a warrior woman.
Fortunately it cuts away just as Caligula pulls the knife on her, but still Drusilla’s agonizing screams are enough to make it one of the most disturbing moments in television history.
He didn’t destroy all of Camelot to be fair, though if the Kilgharrah conspiracy is true he did bring about its end through his own manipulation’s. Still Kilgharrah regardless did burn about half of the city to the ground. As I’ve said before think of Kilgharrah as a British Godzilla voiced by John Hurt. A big fire breathing reptile that burns whole cities to ash and flattens buildings.
Why the hell is Arthur using flaming arrows to fight a Dragon of all things?
He killed way more people than Smaug.
Stephen Fry/ V for Vendetta
The lovable national treasure met his end in this film when he mocked Hurt’s character on television. Hurt had him savagely beaten to death with clubs in response. Apparently this was why Fry took the role as he said that he had never been beaten to death in any of his previous parts.
The gag that cost him his life.
29/ Lee Van Cleef
Angel Eyes (The Good The Bad and The Ugly), McNeal (The Hard Way), Member of Liberty’s gang (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), Jack Colby (High Noon)
Lee Van Cleef though having played mostly heroic roles still begun his career playing villains and thugs and was responsible for creating what is without doubt the most famous Western villain of all time, Angel Eyes from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Lee’s film debut was as Jack Colby in High Noon a member of the villainous Frank Millers gang who plan to murder the main character of the film Will Kane played by Gary Cooper.
Van Cleef’s role is relatively small. In fact he has no lines at all, but he still has an obvious menace. I think Lee Van Cleef was somewhat lucky in that he just looked intimidating. With his piercing eyes, grim expression and towering height he could make you feel uneasy with just a glance.
Whilst Lee’s character is only a minor villain, he does have the honour of being the first person to appear in the film when we see him stare out into the distance with evil intent in his eyes.
Similar minor villain roles followed for the next few years.
The most notable of these was as one of Liberty’s henchmen in the classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Though this character was unnamed it was still a much larger part than his role in High Noon.
Van Cleef’s villain is part of a trio of thugs with the leader Liberty Valance played by Lee Marvin and the other unnamed criminal played by Strother Martin. Of the three of them Van Cleef’s character is actually the most tame. He is still a vicious thug who helps Liberty savagely beat, rob and do god knows what else to the people in the local town.
At the same time however he is shown to be a restraining influence on him and often prevents him from going too far and actually kill his victims. Strother Martin’s character however is just vile in every way. He stands at the back cackling with glee whenever Liberty hurts someone and only ever kicks people when they are helpless.
I must admit I always found the villains in this film far more entertaining than the heroes. I thought it was quite interesting the way that as evil as all 3 of them were they did genuinely care for each other.
When Liberty Valance is killed his two lackey’s are shown to be grief stricken. The way Van Cleef and Martin play it there is genuine anger and grief for their friend as you can see in the clip below. Its not like in other Westerns such as For a Few Dollars More where the villains have no real loyalty to one another. Here Liberty’s gang try and get justice for him.
What’s also interesting about the villains fierce loyalty to one another is that it is contrasted with the main hero of the film played by Jimmy Stewart who stabs his friend played by John Wayne in the back by stealing his girlfriend.
In fact in that very scene where Van Cleef and Martin’s characters are demanding justice for the murder of their friend Wayne has just come back from seeing his former friend and girlfriend leaving him. Its quite interesting that the villains as vile as they are ultimately have more loyalty to one another.
Van Cleef would continue to play similar minor villainous roles until the mid 60’s when he finally hit the big time in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More. Here he played a heroic character however, but not long afterwards he would be cast as the main villain in Leone’s masterpiece The Good The Bad and the Ugly.
Van Cleef’s villain Angel Eyes is a savage through and through. He is a gun for hire who loves his work and regularly turns on his own employers for kicks. At the start of the film he is hired to kill someone, but his target pays him double the money to kill the person who originally hired him. Angel eyes accepts his money but then decides to follow the job through anyway and murders his and his son before going back to the person who hired him originally who he brutally kills in order to “follow the job through”.
Arguably his most brutal moment is when he tortures Tuco and comes close to having his eyes poked out! Its terrifying watching Angel Eyes lure Tuco in. The viewer can see what’s coming as Angel Eyes forces the crowd outside to play music to cover up his impending screams, but Tuco thinks its just a nice little tune and doesn’t realize until its too late.
Angel Eyes would go on to be seen as the ultimate Western villain. I think the villains in Spaghetti Westerns were always more effective than those in Hollywood westerns.
This is probably because they were more gritty. The villains in Hollywood westerns could never get away with doing as much. Liberty Valance for instance never actually kills anyone. A big deal is made of the fact that he intends to in the film. The villains in the Dollars movies meanwhile did things like graphically rape women on screen, brutally torture the main characters, and murder children, even infants.
Thus Angel Eyes the most twisted of them all perhaps not surprisingly entered into popular culture like no other Western villain either before or after. There have been countless characters inspired by Angel Eyes in various other works. Among the most notable examples include Revolver Ocelot in the Metal Gear Solid video game series and Marshall Nathan Van Cleef in the Jackie Chan movie Shanghai Noon.
Ironically after the success of The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Lee Van Cleef would go on to play almost nothing but heroes throughout the rest of his career. He did play a few more badguys, but they were few and far between. One of his most notable villain roles was in the Hard Way where he starred opposite Patrick McGoohan.
Despite the fact that he played almost exclusively heroes throughout the last 20 years of his career he was always remembered as a villain actor because of his role as Angel Eyes. That one prominent villain role overshadowed the rest of his long and very successful career.
He is the ultimate western villain and that’s why he earns a place on my list. The only reason he is not higher is simply because the later half of his career was spent playing heroes.
Baker/ The Good The Bad and The Ugly
Not the most sympathetic victim, Baker hires Angel Eyes to murder someone, but the intended victim gives Angel Eyes double what he was paid to kill Baker instead. Angel Eyes still kills him commenting that once he has been hired he always follows the job through. After he returns to Baker he then does the same and smothers him with a pillow before blowing about 4 holes in his head.
I suppose you can look at it as either Angel Eyes is a brutal, psychotic, sadistic monster who is dangerous to everyone and everything around him, or he just has a really good work ethic?
Eli Wallach/ The Good The Bad and The Ugly
In one of the most memorable scenes from the movie Angel Eyes has Tuco brutally tortured and forces a group of young men to play music loud enough to cover his screams.
What’s the most disturbing thing about this scene is the way Angel eyes forces other people to be complicit in the torture. The men who are playing the music, many of them just boys can’t bare to be a part of it, and one of them even breaks down in tears at what he is being forced to do. We also discover that Angel Eyes has done this before to many of the prisoners in the camp too. I’d imagine he probably does it every day first thing in the morning after he shaves but before he has his breakfast.
Patrick McGoohan/ The Hard Way
Lee Van Cleef killed him in a duel at the end of The Hard Way, though McGoohan with his dying breath also managed to kill Van Cleef as well. I always liked the ending of this movie not only because it was a spectacular duel, but also because it was cool the way the makers of the film having cast two such iconic actors didn’t undermine either of them. Normally when two icons are brought together one gets the shit kicked out of him, like the Joker and Lex Luthor, but here its a draw. Number 6 and Angel Eyes are just as badass as each other.
28/ Christopher Lloyd
Commander Kruge (Star Trek 3 Search for Spock), Judge Doom (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Rasputin (Anastasia), The Hacker (Cyberchase)
Christopher Lloyd is probably best known to audiences for his role as the lovable mad scientist Doc Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy.
Still he has played a number of high profile villains over the course of his career. In the later part of his career as he has shifted into becoming more of a voice actor he has become almost exclusively a villain actor.
He has provided the voice for dozens and dozens of cartoon baddies, but he has had a couple of high profile live action villain roles.
His first major villain role was as the evil Klingon and main antagonist Commander Kruge in Star Trek 3. Of all the hard as nails, bastard Klingon commanders there have ever been in Star Trek, Kruge is my favourite.
In fact I’d say that Star Trek 3 marks the best appearance of the Klingons in all of Star Trek. I like the Klingons but I feel that they have often been misused. They were a great idea, a rival alien race for the main characters, but who weren’t monsters like the Daleks or the Cybermen. Kirk couldn’t just slaughter scores of them like the Doctor could the Daleks.
They were despite their war like nature shown to have every right to exist the same way we did and so it sometimes allowed Star Trek via the Klingons to explore avenues that other series couldn’t and develop their society into a fully 3 dimensional culture.
However the problem with the Klingons was that they were often kind of non entities as villains. Most of the time in the Original Series they weren’t even the main focus of the episodes that they were in. They also throughout all of Star Trek have had a long history of being greatly undermined in favour of other villains such as in the first Star Trek film where a whole squad of them is blown to pieces by V,Ger or in the most recent film Star Trek Into Darkness where Khan kills scores of them. Then there is the character of Worf from the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, a tough Klingon warrior who would often be the first to get his ass kicked to show how tough the new badguy was. Hell the act of having a villain who was once powerful get thrashed easily has been called the Worf effect.
They just simply lacked the big presence that say the Daleks had. In Doctor Who the Daleks are always the main villains of each story they are in and far from being undermined they are often made out to be the most dangerous enemies of the Doctor. In their second appearance they conquer the earth and drive humanity to near extinction, whilst the Klingons were scared of Tribbles, tiny, furry, cute little creatures that squeaked.
The deadliest enemies of the Klingons.
Star Trek 3 Search for Spock however was really one of the few times where I think the Klingons lived up to being the most famous baddies from Star Trek and a large part of that is because of the charisma and presence of Christopher Lloyd as Kruge.
Kruge is an utterly pitiless badass. He murders scores of people throughout the film, including the entire crew of the Gissom, Captain Kirk’s son David and even his own men.One of my favourite moments is when a giant, repulsive space worm creature actually wraps itself around Kruge like a snake and he just chokes it. Its slimy, spikey and just so disgusting most people I’d imagine wouldn’t want to look at it never mind touch it or choke the life out of it.
With Kruge we get to see just how brutal the Klingons truly are. Kruge and his men are savages who murder prisoners on a whim and are beyond reason. Even when the planet is literally burning around him Kruge still tries to smash Kirks head in.
Unlike the Klingons who cowered at the sight of Tribbles, these guys are genuinely terrifying and the last thing you would ever want is to be at the mercy of them.
When they kill Kirk’s son its a very swift and brutal moment. Kruge orders his death merely to show Kirk he means business and though Kirk tries pleading with him he goes ahead anyway and has David stabbed to death. Its not even the usual science fictiony type of death where the victim is vaporized by a phaser we see David getting stabbed in the gut and hear him scream in agony.
By far and away the most memorable moment in the film however is Kirk’s final battle with Kruge. This scene is brilliant as this really takes you deep into the hateful mind of the character. Both Kirk and Kruge have lost so much in their battle with each other, Kirk his son and his ship, Kruge his entire crew, yet Kirk is attempting to put their differences aside as if they don’t then they will both die. Kruge is such a petty, spiteful asshole however that he can’t and even when he is dangling over a firey abyss and Kirk tries to pull him to safety he still tries to pull Kirk down with him.
When Kirk finally just says memorably “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU” and boots him into a pool of lava you can’t help but cheer.
Its not hard to see why this scene has become so beloved and parodied by just about everything from South Park to the Simpsons as its so perfect the way they have built Kruge up to be the most vile villain that you want to see get his just deserts. A man who talks about honour yet destroys spaceships in cowardly sneak attacks and has unarmed men and women and even children put to death, who has the nerve to feel wronged when Kirk murders members of his own crew in self defence when they try and steal his ship after he has Kirks son killed for no reason even when Kirk begged him. Thus when he finally gets what’s coming to him it doesn’t disappoint as not only is it in the most sensational over the top way, but Kirk practically sums up what the audience itself is feeling towards Kruge at this point.
Lloyd and Shatner play off of each other brilliantly, as well as Shatner and Ricardo Montablan who played Khan in the previous film did. I’d actually say that Kruge is in his own way as good a villain as Khan. Khan obviously has much greater gravitas, but Kruge is just as effective as being a loathsome, and vicious enemy for the crew of the Enterprise to face. With Khan we could have some sympathy with him as Kirk did genuinely wrong him in a way, but Kruge is just an asshole plain and simple who goes around killing other people but then when some of his own crew are killed in response he acts like he’s the victim which just makes him even more disgusting.
I think this movie was really what caused the Klingons to become seen as Star Trek’s main villains in popular culture. Though they had appeared in more episodes of the original series I think if this film had featured the Romulans like it was originally supposed to then they would probably have become the more recognizable enemies to the general public. Thus through Kruge Lloyd made yet another impact on the sci fi genre.
Aside from Kruge Lloyd’s other most famous villainous role was as Judge Doom the main antagonist from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Whilst this movie was a comedy first and foremost I must admit I was always a little scared of Judge Doom when I was a child. I think its because you are used to cartoon characters being hurt, even killed and then being completely okay so to see a character who could kill cartoon characters was quite disturbing. I also loved the ending where in a final twist it turned out that he was a cartoon character as well.
Lloyd always described this character along with Kruge as being among his favourite roles because of how irredeemably evil they both were.
Over the years Lloyd has lent his voice to many animated series. Whilst he has managed to play a wide variety of roles in live action in animation he is more often than not typecast as the villain.
His strong commanding voice really makes him a natural choice for the badguy. Whilst his most famous role will always be the lovable Doc Brown to so many of us he will also always be the Klingon bastard that killed James T Kirk’s son.
David Marcus/ Star Trek 3 Search for Spock
One of the most powerful moments from any Star Trek film. David’s death is sudden and brutal and pointless as Kruge in spite of Kirk’s pleading orders one of the prisoners killed just to prove he means business.
David dies a heroes death as the Klingons actually intend to murder Saavik, but David nobly gets in the way. I just love the irony of Kruge who talks about honour having his men armed with knives butcher three unarmed people none of whom are soldiers, all scientists and one of them is even a child!
What really makes this scene though it must be said is Shatners reaction to being told his only son is dead. Its a perfect combination of overwhelming grief the way he stumbles backwards into his chair and incredible rage. Its probably his best performance in the series.
Who the hell said that Shatner can’t act?
Marvin Acme/ Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Played by Stubby Kaye, Acme is killed by Lloyd when he drops a safe on his head. His death is what kicks off the main story of the film as Doom frames Roger Rabbit for his murder.
Mr Boddy/ Clue
In this classic comedy Lloyd’s character Professor Plum is responsible for Mr Boddy’s death in the third ending. Clue has 3 different endings and in two of them Lloyd isn’t a villain (though he is still a creepy lech in all 3)
In the last ending he is revealed to have killed Mr Boddy who was blackmailing all of the guests there. He shot at Boddy in the dark, pretended he was dead when Boddy was just pretending in the hopes of escaping after he realised someone was trying to kill him) and later when he was alone bashed Boddy’s head in with a candle stick.
It turns out in a great twist however that the Boddy Plum killed was in fact another victim of blackmail himself. The real Mr Boddy was in fact Wadsworth the Butler (played by Tim Curry) who forced this other man to pose as him for the night. I always loved Plum’s reaction to being told he murdered an innocent man. It was so nonchalant.
WAIT A MINUTE WHO DID I KILL?
27/ Michael Clarke Duncan
Kingpin (Daredevil), Attar (Planet of the Apes), Manute (Sin City), Krall (Teen Titans)
The late great Michael Clarke Duncan though by all accounts a true gentleman off stage was a very effective onscreen villain.
Much like Lee Van Cleef he almost didn’t need to act as he was physically just so imposing. He also like many other great villain actors benefited from having a very strong voice.
He didn’t always play bad guys. His most famous role was arguably as the wrongly accused gentle giant John Coffey in the classic movie The Green Mile.
He also played a heroic character in films such as The Scorpion King opposite his close friend The Rock too.
Overall I wouldn’t say that he was someone who you’d always expect to be a villain. Much like Lee Van Cleef and John Hurt I think that he was probably the hero at least as often as he was the villain.
Still he did play a number of memorable rogues throughout his career.
He was the second actor to play Daredevil’s archenemy Wilson Fisk AKA The Kingpin of crime after John Rhys Davies in the 2003 film Daredevil.
Sadly Daredevil was not that big a success and truth be told it sadly doesn’t hold up that well. Still Duncan I think was excellent as the Kingpin.
Really if the film is remembered at all then it is solely because of his performance. He simply dominates any scene he is in. Duncan gained an extra 40 pounds for the role in order to fit the physicality of the character.
I think it’s a shame that he never got a chance to play the character in a better production as he really captured the cool charm, psychotic rage and sheer arrogance of the villain superbly.
His Kingpin is someone who does feel like he is completely untouchable and even enjoys being able to tear other people’s lives apart. Duncan regularly expressed an interest in reprising the role before his untimely death but sadly it never happened outside of an episode of a Spider-Man cartoon. The only reason I ever wanted a Daredevil sequel was to see where Duncan would have taken the character next.
The Kingpin aside whenever Duncan played villains he tended to play thugs and bullies.
In this respect he was somewhat comparable to Clancy Brown. Brown was also normally brutish characters and heavies, but both he and Duncan got a chance to go against type when they played a comic book villain who was more a scheming criminal mastermind, the Kingpin and Lex Luthor.
Among Duncan’s most famous roles included that of the vicious one eyed sadistic Manute in Sin City and Thade’s vicious right hand man Attar in Planet of the Apes. Both roles were somewhat more cartoonish characters but Duncan I feel managed to inject them both with more genuine menace.
Duncan also did extensive voice acting too. His distinctive deep voice often meant that he was typecast as villains in cartoons more than in live action and he even got a chance to reprise his role as The Kingpin in a Spider-Man animated series.
Sadly Duncan passed away in 2012 at the age of just 54. It’s a real tragedy that his life and career were cut so short as I think there really were so many other great roles he could have played but fortunately in the time that he had he established himself as a respected character actor and among the most effective on screen villains.
General Krull/ Planet of the Apes
Krull is beaten to death by Duncan’s character in a brutal one on one fight. Krull had attempted to talk him out of it before hand but sadly it didn’t work. To be fair to Krull I wouldn’t have wanted to fight a bloodthirsty Michael Clarke Duncan either.
Rosario Dawson/ Sin City
Duncan’s villainous character Manute sadistically tortures Dawson’s character Gail. Whilst these scenes are brutal there is a certain comedic quality to them as the violence is so over the top such as when Dawson bites a chunk out of the neck of the woman who betrayed her. In the end Gail gets even with him however when she machine guns him down.
Jack Murdock/ Daredevil
He is killed by the Kingpin when he refuses to throw a fight. Ultimately however this leads to the Kingpin’s downfall as years later his son Matt breaks the Kingpins legs in revenge.
26/ Peter Cushing
Grand Moff Tarkin (Star Wars), Doctor Terror (Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors), Herbert Flay (Madhouse), Professor Victor Frankenstein (Hammer Frankenstein series)
Peter Cushing was arguably more famous for playing heroic characters throughout his long career. He played Sherlock Holmes many times on film and television, Winston Smith, and Doctor Who in two film adaptations of the series in the 1960’s Doctor Who and the Daleks and Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD. By far his most famous performance was as Van Helsing. The image we have of Van Helsing as the ultimate Vampire hunter travelling from town to town fighting them, devoting his whole existence to wiping them out comes from Cushing more than it does even Stoker himself. In the original Novel Van Helsing is an expert on the occult, but he has not devoted his whole life to hunting Vampires. The paranormal is just one of many interests he has and his battle with Dracula is in fact his first encounter with the supernatural. The modern Vampire hunter as a character practically stems from Cushing’s Van Helsing.
Despite this however Cushing did play many iconic villainous roles too and I think its fair to say that most lists of iconic film villains will probably have at least one of Cushing’s bad guy characters among them.
Cushing played Grand Moff Tarkin, the main antagonist in the first Star Wars film. Though Darth Vader is obviously the most iconic villain in the series, Tarkin is the one in command of the Death Star and is responsible for the most iconic moment of villainy in the film if not the series when he ruthlessly destroys Princess Leia’s home planet Alderaan simply as a demonstration of the empire’s powers.
Tarkin may not be the most complex villain but Cushing imbues him with a real authority that allows him in some ways to be more menacing than Darth Vader himself. Its also interesting how Tarkin’s own arrogance brings about his downfall as he refuses to leave the Death star when the rebels are attacking the Death Star. He thinks so little of his enemies that he doesn’t believe he is any danger at any point and actually doesn’t want to leave in what he feels will be the Empire’s greatest victory. Of course he ends up paying a heavy price for it.
Whilst Tarkin was probably Cushing’s most high profile badguy part, to many of us his greatest villainous performance was as Professor Victor Frankenstein.
In Mary Shelly’s original novel the Professor was a more conflicted character, whilst in the original 1931 Universal film, the renamed Henry Frankenstein is a heroic character.
In the Hammer film series which began with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 the Professor played by Cushing was an outright villain who was willing to murder helpless old men and even pregnant women for the good of his experiments.
Cushing’s Frankenstein wasn’t simply a psychotic, cackling, wild haired mad professor. He was a charming, calm, intelligent, rationale character who underneath his steely exterior was a passionate, dedicated scientist who was willing to do whatever it took.
He wasn’t necessarily an evil person (at least in most of his films) he was just so dedicated that it overrode any sense of empathy he could have had for his victims. After locking Justine a woman who was in love with him and pregnant with his child in the same room as a psychotic monster, the very next morning we see Victor calmly sitting having his breakfast. It doesn’t even register to him the horror of what he has done. To him Justine who threatened to reveal what he was really doing to the police unless he married her was just another obstacle in the way of his experiments succeeding. He no longer saw her as a human being, similarly the people he murders to use in his experiments he just sees as spare parts.
At the same time however there are moments where he does demonstrate some self awareness such as in the final entry in the series where Frankenstein who by this point is a mass murderer comments to himself “If I can succeed just this once then every sacrifice will have been worthwhile”.
Cushing played the role in 6 films in total. The professor wasn’t always an out and out villain in each film to be fair.In Revenge of Frankenstein and ironically The Evil of Frankenstein he is more of an anti hero than a villain. In the 5th entry of the series Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed the character is completely deplorable.
At one point in the movie he even rapes a young woman. I must admit this was always my least favourite entry in the series for this reason. I felt it turned Frankenstein from a 3 dimensional villain to a card board cut out character. There was always a reason for the evil he did in the previous movies, but in this film he just rapes her because well he’s evil! Cushing himself hated the rape scene and felt it was not only distasteful but out of character for Frankenstein.
Cushing’s other big iconic villain role was as Doctor Terror in the anthology film Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors. The character is a mysterious stranger who at the end of the movie is revealed to be death himself who takes the main characters to hell.
Not only is Doctor Terrors House of Horrors regarded as a classic but it has also inspired many affectionate parodies too such as Steve Coogans series Doctor Terrible’s House of Horrible and Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing a long blog.
Cushing also played villainous roles in The Avengers and Space 1999. His other most prominent villainous role was perhaps as the demented serial killer Herbert Flay in the horror movie Madhouse where he starred opposite Vincent Price in a rare heroic role.
Whilst Cushing may be better remembered as a hero to most, there is no denying that he also made a big impact on popular culture with his villainous parts too.
I think Cushing was really the perfect icey, cool villain. He always felt in control as characters like Tarkin and Frankenstein which made it all the more exciting the few times he would lose it.
Alderaan/Star Wars The most evil act on this list. Few cinema villains can boast that they have blown up an entire planet! What makes Cushing so effective here is how much he underplays it. To Tarkin slaughtering billions of innocent people is just another formality that he has to get out of the way.
Professor Bernstein/ The Curse of Frankenstein
Frankenstein’s first victim,Victor invites the lonely old professor up to his house and kills him by pushing him over a bannister. He then uses his brain for his creature, but unfortunately it is damaged resulting in the creature becoming homicidal. Victor later despite his best attempts to repair its brain is forced to kill the Professor a second time in defence by burning it alive.
Anna/ Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
Poor Anna suffers the most at Frankensteins hands. First he blackmails her and her husband into helping him with his vile experiments, then out of the blue he rapes her and then when he finds out that she stabbed his latest experiment he stabs her to death with a scalpel. This is vicious even by his standards and marks the only time he kills someone out of anger rather than because he needs too.
25/ Donald Pleasence
Ernest Stavro Blofeld (You Only Live Twice), Dr Michaels (Fantastic Voyage), Adrian Carsini (Columbo), Heinrich Himmler (The Eagle Has Landed)
A very underrated actor with an incredibly large range.
Donald Pleasence much like Lee Van Cleef is someone whose career can really be split into two halves. Initially like Van Cleef he was mostly a villain actor in the early years of his career, but later after his iconic turn as Doctor Sam Loomis in Halloween he was almost always cast as the hero.
Thus whilst he obviously is welcome on this list, he was not exclusively a villain actor which is the only reason he is so low down.
Pleasence was not a towering, imposing figure like Lee Van Cleef, but he had a lot of menace and screen presence nonetheless. Few people had as sinister and effective a voice as Pleasence.
Pre Loomis he did play a few sympathetic roles such as Colin Blythe in the Great Escape, but he was usually type cast as the villain.
Among his most notable bad guy parts from the early days of his career include Heinrich Himmler (which can be considered the opposite of his role in the Great Escape) and Doctor Michaels in Fantastic Voyage who suffers one of the nastiest deaths of any villain when he is absorbed by anti bodies.
However his most iconic villainous performance was as Blofeld James Bond’s archenemy in You Only Live Twice. This marked the first full appearance of Blofeld who had only appeared fleetingly with his face covered prior to this. Even throughout most of You Only Live Twice Blofeld’s face is concealed, though again Pleasence’s voice helps to give the character more presence than in previous films.
Though many actors have played Blofeld over the years, including such high profile figures as Telly Savalas, Charles Grey and Max Von Sydow, Pleasance’s Blofeld is the one that is most remembered. No one can forget the image of his Blofeld stroking his white cat, with the large scar running down one side of his face over his eye, speaking with that quiet, unsettling voice at the centre of his evil empire.
In many ways the image of modern day supervillains stems from Pleasence’s Blofeld. There have been many parodies of the character over the years with the most notable being Doctor Evil from the Austin Power series.
Another one of Pleasence’s most famous villain roles was in an episode of Columbo. Here Pleasence was actually given a chance to play a more sympathetic villain as opposed to a total monster. Though he is still a murderer, he is pushed into doing it and is shown to be a very intelligent, sensitive, almost down trodden character who Columbo himself even sympathises with.
Pleasence’s villainous career would ultimately come to an end when he played Doctor Loomis the main hero in the Halloween film series. After this he was rarely the villain ever again, but the image of most famous baddie role Blofeld continues to endure in popular culture to this day just as much as it did in the 60’s.
Helga Brandt/ You Only Live Twice
Probably the most grisly death in the whole Bond series, this is the classic “you have failed me” moment when Blofeld tosses the lovely Helga Brandt into a pool full of flesh eating Piranhas who strip her to the bone.
Pleasence murders his own brother in quite a gruesome way. He hits him over the head and then later suffocates him. Its proof of what a great actor Pleasence is that he is able to make such a character who murders his own brother in quite a horrific way still seem sympathetic to the audience.
Michael Myers/ Halloween
Okay so this wasn’t when Pleasence was a badguy, but I still feel that I should mention among his famous onscreen kills as Pleasence has kicked Myers ass in some quite spectacular ways.
He’s shot him through the chest about 6 times, blown out both of his eyes and then blown him to smithereens and finally he’s beaten him to death with a 2 by 4.
Yet he always comes back for more. I suppose he and Loomis are like Cushing’s Van Helsing and Lee’s Dracula this way.
24/ Lon Chaney Jr
Wolfman (The Wolfman), Frankenstein’s Monster (The Ghost of Frankenstein), Dracula (Son of Dracula), Kharris (Universal Mummy series)
Son of legendary silent actor and man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney Jr was somewhat overshadowed by his father’s legacy throughout his career. Even today sadly whilst Chaney Jr has his fans he is still somewhat trapped within the shadow of his father.
He was a very talented actor in his own right and more importantly whilst his name may not be as recognized as some of the other horror greats he was still nevertheless responsible for creating a truly iconic horror movie character that persists to this day, the Wolfman.
Chaney played both the Wolfman and his human counterpart Larry Talbot. Both of these characters demonstrated the wide range he had. As the Wolfman he was superb acting under Jack Pearce’s heavy make up to portray a desperate, savage animal,whilst as Talbot he was innocent, sweet and sympathetic. Chaney set the template that many werewolf characters were to follow. Leon from The Curse of the Werewolf, David from an American Werewolf in London, even Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer all follow the template he set down of the sweet natured, romantic character infected with the curse of lycanthropy, and are all playing in many ways the same character.
Whilst the Wolfman was his biggest role and he returned to it many times, Lon Chaney Jr would play many other monsters throughout his long career.
He played the Frankenstein’s monster in Ghost of Frankenstein. He was the first actor after Boris Karloff to play the role. He also went on to play Dracula in Son of Dracula.
He played the Mummy Kharris in three films. He is to date the only actor to play all 4 of Universal’s monsters.
I wasn’t sure about adding Chaney here as Dracula aside none of the monsters he played were out and out villains. The Wolfman, Frankensteins monster and Kharris were all to some extent sympathetic characters. Still at the end of the day they were monsters who killed people and given that the modern werewolf is essentially made in Chaney’s image I feel it would be wrong to leave him off the list.
Bela Lugosi/ The Wolfman
Bela Lugosi plays the werewolf that bites and infects Lon Chaney Jr’s character. Chaney still manages to kill him when Bela is in his wolf form by bashing his head in with a silver headed cane which is really what Bela wants anyway to be free of the curse, but still I’m listing it as Bela Lugosi is a pretty high profile victim.
Lionel Atwill/ The Ghost of Frankenstein
Another high profile victim, Atwill is killed when Chaney’s Monster throws him into a machine which electrocutes him and causes a fire that burns the house down. I suppose you could also consider Atwill a victim of Lugosi as Lugosi’s character Iygor’s brain had been sewn into Chaney’s body and his voice is even dubbed over Chaney.
John Carradine/ The Mummy’s Ghost
John Carradine is killed when he tries to steal Kharris’s long lost love and Kharris in retaliation choke slams him through a window to his death.
23/ Tony Todd
The Candyman (Candyman film series) The Fallen (Transformers Revenge of the Fallen), Gladius Gilgamesh (Hercules the Legendary Journey’s), Vyasa (Angel)
Todd though definitely best known for his villainous role as the Candy Man has played a wide variety of characters on both film and television.
He was the main hero in the 90’s remake of Night of the Living Dead opposite Patricia Tallman.
One of his other most famous roles was as William Bludworth in the Final Destination series who though creepy was not an outright villain.
Another memorable sympathetic character was as Cecrops a sailor condemned to wander the oceans forever by Posiedon in a classic episode of Xena the Warrior Princess.
Still in spite of these roles he will always be remembered as the murderous Candyman. Todd described the role as his own personal Phantom of the Opera.
The Candyman is the malevolent spirit of the son of a slave who was killed for marrying a white woman by being smeared with honey and then eaten alive by Bee’s!
Despite his sympathetic origins the character is a total monster who murders scores of innocent people with his hook hand.
Todd really captures the characters rage and hatred against all of humanity. The Candyman on screen is a towering presence of anger, bitterness and evil.
Todd would go on to reprise his role in two more films though neither were as successful as the first film critically or commercially the character of the Candy man nevertheless entered into popular culture as one of the most iconic horror movie villains of all time.
Not surprisingly after the Candy Man Todd would go on to play many more villainous characters on film and television. He played the supporting antagonist Grange in The Crow. Though the Crow is really Brandon Lee and Michael Wincott’s film Todd still puts in a great performance as the cold and thuggish Grange. He serves as quite a good contrast to Wincott’s flamboyantly evil character as he is more of a subdued villain who is only doing it for the money.
Todd has appeared in many classic cult series such as Smallville, Charmed, Angel, Babylon 5, Star Trek and Hercules the Legendary Journey’s.
He was one of my favourite guest stars on Angel as the Demon Vyasa in the episode The Shroud of Rahmon.
This episode isn’t generally too well thought of but personally its always been a favourite of mine because of Todd’s character. Vyasa is a ridiculously over the top villain.
He hates human beings so much he never shuts up about how much they disgust him.
“Human’s always got to feel things and then tell you about it, I’m so happy, I’m so scared, I’m so sad, it makes me want to puke”.
It’s hilarious when you consider not only the irony that he is doing what he hates humans for, describing his feelings but also the fact that he wears human clothes, speaks a human language and wants to gain access to a magical shroud made by human beings!
On Hercules the Legendary Journey’s meanwhile he played an evil priest who aside from releasing the ancient Demon Dahak into the world also kills Hercules’s best friend Iolaus.
This role was a brilliant contrast to the sympathetic character he played on the spin off series Xena the Warrior Princess.
Todd’s most recent high profile role was as the Fallen in the Transformers film series though he has also played such famous villains as Mr Hyde and Superman’s nemesis Darkseid.
Whilst the general public may not recognize his name at the same time I think most people would probably recognize him as he has been in just about every major cult series, often as a villain. Really Doctor Who is the only one he hasn’t been in yet.
Helen/ The Candyman
The Candyman spends virtually the whole film torturing her and though she manages to defeat him at the end of the film it is not only at the cost of her life, but her very soul too as she is shown to become a damned, malevolent spirit murdering innocent people throughout all of eternity just like him.
Bob the Security Guard/ Angel
One of my favourite moments in the series, Bob is an accomplice of Vyasa, but as Vyasa isn’t too fond of humans he turns on him. Bob who is the security guard of the museum they are robbing asks his allies to hit him in order to make it look realistic that he was overpowered but Vyasa literally rips his entire head off with his hands and then says dryly to his severed head “Looks real to me”.
Iolaus/ Hercules the Legendary Journey’s
He is killed when Todd’s character throws a dagger into his heart. The dagger was actually meant for Nebula his lover but Iolaus got in the way to protect her. It wasn’t the first nor would it be the last time Iolaus would die but still it’s a pretty big deal to kill the heroes best friend.
22/ Alan Rickman
Hans Gruber (Die Hard), Sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), Elliot Marsden (Quigley Down Under), Judge Turpin (Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Barber Street)
I know most of you reading will probably be wondering why he isn’t higher up the list. Well remember this isn’t based on who is the best villain, but simply who has played the most villains. The guys at this point in the list are people who have played some pretty famous villains and if they popped up in a film you wouldn’t be shocked to see them as a villain, but you also wouldn’t be shocked to see them as a good guy either.
Rickman contrary to popular belief was not like say Tim Curry who is known for playing nothing but villains. He had great success playing many non villainous parts in films like Galaxy Quest, Dogma, and Love Actually. His role as Alexander Dane the frustrated Shakesperian actor cast in a lowbrow sci fi series in Galaxy Quest was easily one of his most beloved and iconic roles. “By Grabthar’s hammer he shall be avenged” Dane’s notorious catchphrase that he despised was quoted many times on social media by Rickman’s fans after his untimely death earlier this year.
I would also argue that his role as Severus Snape, his most famous in the last 20 years was heroic too. I know that’s a point of debate among fans and the character has a page on both villains and heroes wiki, but ultimately as he was trying to bring down Voldemort I consider him a hero. Hey Harry later named his son after him so clearly he didn’t think he was such a bad guy.
Still despite this Rickman obviously did play a number of brilliant villains throughout his career.
One of his most famous villainous performances was Hans Gruber in Die Hard. This was also the role that launched him to international stardom. Whilst Die Hard is a classic film Gruber is something of a straight forward, even quite bland villain in terms of how he is written. He’s just another evil German, the type of thing we had seen dozens of times before. Hell if anything crazy evil Germans that you could imagine strapping the hero to a railway line like Gruber were kind of old hat by the time Die Hard rolled around.
Rickman however was able to give the villain real class and charisma. He dominates every scene he is in with his presence and adds so many layers to the villains persona like his sense of humour, manipulative nature and psychotic rage.
None of the villains in the 4 Die Hard sequels could compare to Rickman’s character and to this day he is still celebrated as one of cinema’s greatest villains.
Arguably just as famous was his turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Personally I think Rickman was the definitive version of the Sheriff overall.
Over the years there have been many different interpretations of the Sheriff.
Sometimes he is portrayed as a love rival to Robin Hood for Marian’s affections, other times he is a fat, bumbling oaf, with Sir Guy of Gisbourne being the most dangerous of Robin’s three villains such as in the Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn.
Other times he is more of mastermind working from behind the scenes, twisting Prince John and Sir Guy into trusting him like Paul Darrows version in the 70’s BBC mini series The Legend of Robin Hood, whilst Sir Guy is still more of a physical threat. Then there are the versions who serve as Robin’s main foe, his equal in physical strength and cunning.
To me Rickman’s Sheriff managed to combine elements from all of the Sheriff’s previous portrayals. There were elements of comedy in his version. Rickman’s usual dry, witty sense of humour is in place here such as when the Sheriff promises to cut Robin’s heart out with a spoon! At the same time he is also a much more dangerous villain like other versions of the Sheriff. Like Paul Darrow’s Sheriff he is a political usurper manipulating those around him for his own ends, whilst he is also a physical match for Robin too. He is also even a love rival for Marian’s affections as well.
Thus to me he combines all of the elements of the various different versions of the Sheriff of Nottingham to create the ultimate version of the character.
Other high profile villain roles were Elliot Marsden in the Australian Western Quigley Down Under opposite Tom Selleck and the vicious, perverted Judge Turpin in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd.
Rickman always brought a lot of class and intelligence to the villains he played and often made them seem like the most charismatic and engaging character to watch.
Harry Ellis/ Die Hard
A classic example of an asshole victim. To be fair Ellis didn’t quite deserve what happened to him, but still it is fun watching the cocky slimeball think he can smooth things over, completely unaware of the lunatic he is dealing with in Gruber. It blows up in his face of course literally when Gruber has enough of him and blows his brains out.
Michael Wincott/ Robin Hood:: Prince of Thieves
Wincott played Sir Guy in this film who worked for the Sheriff. Ultimately when he failed him the Sheriff run Sir Guy through with a sword. What makes this even worse is that Sir Guy is his cousin in this version!
Lucy Barker/ Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Barber Street
Poor Lucy is the object of Judge Turpin’s affections which results in him drugging and raping her. She then goes completely insane only to be murdered by her former husband years later, making her really the most tragic character in the story.
21/ Claude Rains
Doctor Jack Griffin (The Invisible Man), Prince John (The Adventures of Robin Hood), Alexander Sebastian (Notorious), Erique Claudin (The Phantom of the Opera)
Claude Rains was one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation who starred in some of the most famous and celebrated films of the 30’s and 40’s such as Casablanca.
He had a long and very varied career in which he played many different roles, but he did camp it up gloriously from time to time as a villain.
He played the Invisible Man in the first ever adaptation of HG Wells famous novel in 1933 produced by Universal studios.
There were some deviations from the novel. Namely the Invisible Man himself was portrayed as having been driven completely insane by the formula he used to turn himself invisible.
Apparently Wells disliked this change to the story, but personally I think it benefits Rain’s performance.
As much as I love the story of Dracula, The Invisible Man is my favourite Universal horror film and its because of how relentlessly evil and vicious the main villain is. Griffin is by far and away the most destructive of all the Universal monsters. He kills literally thousands of people, he derails trains, throws people off cliffs, bashes their heads in with chairs and traps them in exploding cars. A lot of the murders are quite graphic and drawn out compared to the murders in other Universal monsters flicks. With Fritz in the original Frankenstein for instance we just hear a scream and then see his body hanging from the ceiling. With Kemp’s death in this film however the Invisible man beats him, ties him up and then tells him exactly how he is going to kill him before killing him in a very slow painful way by burning him alive!
Claude Rains is excellent in the role. He plays the character as a complete psychopath, but its not like say the Joker or Missy where he is a gleefully evil lunatic. The Invisible Man is full of anger at everything. He doesn’t have some twisted philosophy he wants to impose on the world, nor is he someone who even likes being evil. He’s just really, really pissed off at everything!
Claude Rain’s deep, powerful voice also is an obvious asset to the character too considering at many points in the film the character is nothing but a voice!
Rain’s would go on to play another one of Universal’s most famous monsters in their colour remake of the Phantom of the Opera.
Whilst this movie is highly regarded, ultimately the original silent version starring Lon Chaney Sr is still the most iconic adaptation.
The make up for the Chaney version is still far more striking. Reins Phantom just has a big burn across his face, whilst Chaney’s entire face has been disfigured.
Rains is still excellent as the Phantom and its great to see him get a chance to play a more sympathetic villain, but still I sadly I wouldn’t say that it was as interesting a character as the Invisible Man.
Reins would also go on to play Prince John in the Adventures of Robin Hood. This was a very different type of villain to both Griffin and Claudin. John is a total pansy! He is an effeminate, whiny, spoiled little man child who despite having the most power of Robin’s three enemies is completely useless.
Rains other big villain role was as the Nazi Alexander Sebastian. Though this character was arguably his most villainous role at the same time we do see more sides to him. He isn’t just a straight forward villain as we see a more human aspect to him through his infatuation with the main female character Alicia played by Ingrid Bergman. Its ultimately his infatuation with her that allows her to infiltrate his organisation.
Whilst Rains may not have played as many villains as some of the other actors on this list, he still played plenty of memorable bad guys and through the Invisible Man and The Phantom he will always be a horror icon.
Stupid Little Policeman/ The Invisible Man
One of my favourite moments in the film. Basically a policeman says at a meeting that he thinks the Invisible Man is a hoax only to be pounced on by the Invisible man who smashes his head in with a chair whilst screaming “A HOAX, A HOAX IS IT!”
When he is in the car afterwards talking to Kemp he mentions casually “oh I killed a stupid little policeman, smashed his head in with a chair.” Its the way he says it so calmly almost as an after thought that is both disturbing and in a dark way actually quite funny.
Paul Kemp/ The Invisible Man
The nastiest death in the whole film. Paul betrays the Invisible Man who promises to kill him the next night. The police try and get him to safety, but just as he thinks he has gotten away in his car, he discovers the invisible man hiding in the back.
The Invisible man then beats him, ties him up and then prepares to send his car over a cliff. He describes in gruesome detail how he will die, before sending him over the cliff where his car catches fire.
I love the Invisible Man’s last little line to Kemp that Reins absolutely spits out with bile when he sends him to his death “I always said you were a filthy little coward Kemp, you’re a filthy little rat as well!”
Biancarolli/ The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom murders this spoilt, tantrum throwing diva when she gets in the way of his beloved’s singing career.
Much like Harry Ellis she is set up as being a bit of an asshole victim, but again I think its safe to say the Phantoms reaction to her bad behaviour was a bit extreme?
20/ James Marsters
Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel), Brainiac (Smallville), Captain John Hart (Torchwood), Lord Piccolo (Dragonball Evolution)
James Marsters is a highly talented actor whose biggest success has been in television unlike many of the other actors in this list. He’s never really branched out into film, but I don’t think that matters as I don’t think that television is any less of a medium than film.
James started a lot later than most as a television actor. He spent the first 10 years of his career on stage and was 36 before he landed his first big break as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The character of Spike was intended to be a minor villain throughout the first half of the second season who would be killed at the end of What’s My Line part 2 after which his love Drusilla and Angelus would become the main villains throughout the rest of the season.
James performance as the punk rock Vampire however proved to be hugely popular and so the character was simply put into a wheelchair instead. Its not hard to see why Spike proved so popular in hindsight.
The character was very different to the Vampires we had see in the previous episodes of the series. Joss Whedon famously hated romantic Vampires. The character of Angel who happened by accident aside (and was written off in the series as being a special Vampire with a soul) all the Vampires in Buffy’s first season are as inhuman as can be. They are sadistic monsters who look hideous, they live underground, they worship ancient Demon gods, they despise humanity and human emotions, they want to exterminate human civilisation completely.
They seem more like the Daleks or the Treens IE faceless totally inhuman monsters that we aren’t meant to have any kind of empathy with. The hero can kill as many of them as they want and we won’t think there is any kind of moral ambiguity there.
Spike however changed that. With Spike we saw a Vampire that not only spent more time looking like a human but also had real human emotions through his love for Drusilla. He wasn’t just a snarling monster dedicated to destroying humanity. Hell he loved human culture, he enjoyed watching the tv, going to clubs, listening to music. At the same time he wasn’t softer than any of the previous Vampires as a villain (at least not yet).
If anything he was even more violent than the Master the villain of the previous season. One effective moment sees him casually snap the neck of an older guy he judges to be too old to eat, but not to kill.
The character had so many different layers to him that he was always fascinating to watch. On the one hand he was a vicious thug, on the other a loving boyfriend and really his relationship and history with Drusilla and Angel were so fascinating that it would have been a gigantic waste to kill him off.
Whilst the character was obviously very well written credit must go to James and his chemistry with the other actors as to why he not only spared but eventually upgraded to a regular. Joss Whedon has said that it was James’s single guest performance in the season 3 episode Lovers Walk that convinced him to bring Spike back as a regular the following year.
Of course once Spike became a regular he was no longer a villain any more. First he had a chip put in his head which prevented him from killing by causing him pain every time he tried to hurt someone (similar to the conditioning Alex goes through in A Clockwork Orange) and then after falling in love with Buffy he won a soul. Spike’s descent from legendary slayer killing Vampire to love sick puppy dog became notorious among fans of the series. It didn’t help that he tended to get beaten up/tortured a hell of a lot more after he fell in love with Buffy too.
Hell in season 7 he spends two whole episodes just getting the shit kicked out of him and tortured. I can’t imagine what James must have thought when he read that script “okay just lie on your back whilst a big ugly Vampire pounds your face”
Spike probably went through more physical punishment than any other fictional character except for G’Kar from Babylon 5.
The process of a villain who was once terrifying losing all of their menace and strength and becoming a pansy has been dubbed “Spikification”. James himself would even joke about it in interviews and conventions. Still at the same time it obviously allowed them to flesh the character out further and really Spike’s story from start to finish is truly fascinating and Joss Whedon himself even said that he considered Spike to be the most well developed of all the many characters he has created throughout the years as he went from the lowest of the low trying to rape Buffy to an ensouled champion sacrificing himself to save the world.
All of that was down to James who was able to convince Joss that what was really supposed to be a minor villain like Mr Trick or Professor Walsh or even Luke had potential and James was always excellent in the role whether Spike was a villain, an anti hero, a champion or a sap he always made the character compelling and fun to watch.
I’d say that as a villain I actually preferred Spike on Angel to Buffy. He and Angel had more of a history together and so I feel he was able to be a lot more vicious and personal with Angel than he was with Buffy. Having said that though I also preferred him as a hero on Angel as again I felt he and Angel played off of each other much better.
Following the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer James would win similar roles in various other genre series. Whilst he has never really branched out into films he has enjoyed a consistent career on television and has really become the go to guy for violent, badboy, sexy villains.
He played Brainiac on Smallvile. I have mixed feelings on Smallvile overall. I thought it was a brilliant series for its first 5 years, but its problem was that it went on too long. Past season 5 its no longer Superman the early years. Its Superman except he calls himself the red/blue blur which was ridiculous. By the time he finally puts on the suit in season 10 he has already done everything he is famous for. He’s beaten Brainiac, killed Darkseid, Bizarro. What’s left?
Still despite this I do think that Marster’s Brainiac was always an enjoyable character. At first glance he was somewhat similar to Spike. Another vicious badass in a black coat who eventually redeems himself. Brainiacs last appearance in the series sees him reprogrammed in the future where he becomes a hero.
Still under the surface I think Brainiac gave him a chance to play a different type of character as when you look at Brainiac he is actually the polar opposite to Spike. Brianiac is a cold, calculating character who rarely fights (not that he is not powerful) and has no emotions. He even chastises Bizarro for falling in love.
Spike on the other hand well, to start with he is violent impulsive and never plans things through. The few times he does he often just forgets his plan so he can attack Buffy/Angel like in School Hard or In the Dark. And it terms of being emotional, well remember Spike refers to himself as love’s bitch!
Marsters would go on to appear in as a very similar character to Spike on Torchwood the spin off of Doctor Who. This recurring character named John Hart truly was Spike in all but name right down to the accent. Still he was lots of fun nonetheless and its a shame that he didn’t reappear after the second series.
James also went on to guest star on Supernatural as a Spike like character the warlock Don Phil alongside Charisma Carpenter who played Cordelia Chase on Buffy/Angel.
The creators of Supernatural are big Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fans and have cast many actors from those two series in roles on Supernatural, Amy Acker, Mercedes McNabe, Julie Benz, and Amber Benson. Often their characters are written as homages to their roles on Buffy and Angel, with Julie Benz playing a dying woman who seeks supernatural means to cure herself much like her Buffy character Darla who tried to become a Vampire in order to avoid dying of of a sexually transmitted disease whilst Mercedes McNab played a vapid Vampire similar to her character of Harmony the Vampire Valley Girl on Buffy and Angel. Marsters and Carpenter not only play similar characters, he as the love struck badboy and her the bitchy, egotistical valley girl who is smarter than she seems in this episode but also a married couple too.
This episode was lots of fun. Spike and Cordelia never really had that much interaction in Buffy so seeing them here was great, also it was funny seeing what was basically Spike come in kick the shit out of a Leviathan the unstoppable monster that the Winchesters had been struggling to fight. It was almost like a crossover with the Scooby Gang coming in and saying “that’s how its done” to the Winchesters.
Another high profile villain role of James was in the Dragonball Z movie Dragonball Evolution. Sadly the film was not that well received, though personally I thought that James was fine in it and it gave him a chance to play a different type of villain at least.
Whilst he has been somewhat typecast I think James Marsters has carved out a niche for himself as really the go to guy for the cool villain. James’s bad guys always look as though they have fun just being bad and hurting people.
Whilst James most famous roles are all villainous, the reason he is not higher on this list is because most of his villains tend to redeem themselves. Spike ultimately became a hero, in fact he was a hero for more seasons than he was a badguy. Brainiac was reprogrammed for good and even John Hart in his final appearance turned over a new leaf and helped Captain Jack so really whilst he has played plenty of villains they do always have a habit of going good in the end and thus you can argue he has played good guys just as much.
Nikki Wood/ Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The second slayer Spike killed by snapping her neck. I think James Marsters is always really good for vicious fight scenes. Again its because his villains often look like they just enjoy being violent. Even when they’re the one’s getting beaten up like when Nikki sticks Spike’s head out of the train and he just laughs.
From one of my favourite episodes of Angel. Spike captures Angel and chains him to the ceiling and spends pretty much most of the rest of the episode torturing him both physically and mentally with the aid of his sidekick Marcus, a sadistic Vampire who enjoys torturing, eating and molesting children! Its one of the darkest episodes of the series, but as usual there are some funny moments between Spike and Angel.
You’re an idiot Spike
Really do you think? Funny that because I’m not the one chained to the ceiling with hot pokers in my side.
As Captain Jack Harkness the man who can never die John Barrowman has had more death scenes than any other actor. He’s not so much the man who can never die as he does die he’s more just the man who can never stay dead.
As his nemesis/former lover Hart probably kills Barrowman the largest amount of times.
He tosses him off a 5 storey building, he machine guns him down at point blanc range, he chains him up and tortures him and then he travels backwards in time and buries him alive for over 1000 years where he will keep reviving and dying by asphyxiation, dehydration and hunger. To be fair John was forced to do this by Jack’s demented brother Gray, but still of all the horrible things to happen to people on this list that’s probably the worst.
19/ Christopher Walken
Max Zorrin (A View to a Kill), The Headless Horseman (Sleepy Hollow), Vincenzo Coccotti (True Romance), Max Shreck (Batman Returns)
Truly one of the most iconic actors of all time, Walken is one of these actors much like Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson that is so recognizable virtually anyone can do an impression of him. Everything about him, his look, expressions, his voice is so striking and unusual that he always stands out.
Whilst many of Walken’s villainous performances are iconic ultimately I don’t think you can say he is known for only playing villains. Granted most of his characters are often unhinged and dark, but still many of his most famous roles are non villainous.
I think he is like Alan Rickman in that most people at first think of him as being someone who always plays the villain but when you stop and think about his career then you realise that he has actually played many famous non villainous roles too such as his Oscar winning role as Steven in The Deer Hunter.
As his career is so long we won’t have time to look at all of his viilainous roles so instead I will just cover my favourites.
The first film I ever saw Walken in was Batman Returns where he played the loathsome Max Shreck.
Shreck was intended to serve as a more ordinary, mundane villain in comparison to the flashy, cartoonish Catwoman and Penguin.
Still Shreck manages to hold his own against the two villains and be just as entertaining in his own right. The best thing about Shreck is the way just about every word that comes out of his mouth sounds like a hustle and sleazy con. Even when trying to talk the Penguin into killing him instead of his own son.
Whilst Max is a vile monster who murders scores of innocent people and has a hand in just about every dodgy deal and shady goings on in Gotham ironically he does demonstrate some nobility by giving his own life to save his sons.
It’s a shame in a way that the character was killed off at the end of Batman Returns as I think there was perhaps more they could have done with this character, but still his final showdown with Catwoman is one of the best moments in the film.
Walken would later go on to work with Tim Burton the director of Batman Returns once again in the horror movie Sleepy Hollow.
Here Walken played the Headless Horseman. It was an odd role for Walken to play as he has no lines and very little screen time.
Still he manages to make the Horseman a very memorable creation as he brings a real savage, animalistic quality to the villain. In many ways his performance as the Horseman was comparable to Christopher Lee as Dracula in Dracula Prince of Darkness as Lee similarly had no lines.
At first glance the Horseman and Dracula might have seemed like easy roles for Walken and Lee to play as they have no lines, but actually I think its very difficult to play a character that does nothing but roar and still not only be menacing, but not look outright silly.
Probably Walken’s most famous role is as the Bond villain Max Zorrin View to A Kill.
Zorrin was somewhat more wild than previous Bond villains. He was a complete and utter psychopath who machine gunned down his own men for no reason other than just his own sadistic amusement. Most other Bond villains as ruthless and megolmaniacal as they were often did believe that they were right in their minds, where as Zorrin was just a total sociopath.
Roger Moore apparently was somewhat displeased with View to a Kill as a result of this, but still it cannot be denied that Zorrin is one of the most iconic Bond villains. He’s up there with Blofeld, Goldfinger, Jaws and Oddjob.
Few actors have a body of work behind them like Walken and whilst some of his most beloved roles have been heroic, even tragic, ultimately he has brought many classic villains to life too and thus he earns a spot on this and indeed probably most top villains lists.
Dennis Hopper/ True Romance
In his only scene in the film Walken tortures and kills Hoppers character.
This scene is a classic example of making a cameo as even though he’s only in the film for less than 20 minutes Walken still becomes one of the things people remember the most from it.
Max Shreck ends up pushing Selina Kyle over the edge literally when he throws her through a 3 storey window. I always loved the sadistic way he tries to make her think he was just joking before he tries to kill her.
Of course it comes back to bite him later when she returns as Catwoman and shoves a taser in his mouth.
Miranda Richardson/Sleepy Hollow
After being revived the Headless Horseman first of all rips her tongue out when he forces a kiss on her with those pointy death and then drags her to hell to suffer for all eternity with him.
18/ Gary Oldman
Dracula (Dracula 1992), Norman Stansfield, (Leon the Professional), Jean Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (The 5th Element), Mason Verger (Hannibal)
Gary Oldman is one of the most celebrated British actors of all time. He has made a career out of playing some pretty vile character.
At the start of the list we looked at actors who have played some fairly iconic villains but weren’t really villain actors and now we have moved on to actors who mostly play villains but have a few iconic heroic roles. The final few in the list shall be actors who are known for playing only villains. Obviously no actor has played nothing but villains, but the final few actors on the list shall be actors that if you were to name say 4 big roles of theirs off the top of your head they would be all badguys.
Now Gary Oldman in spite of his many badguy roles is famous for a few heroic characters such as Commissioner Gordon in the Nolan Batman film series. By large I’d say he is a villain actor, but still I think in all fairness if you were to mention Gary Oldman to someone then Gordon would probably be among the first roles they’d mention.
Oldman has been responsible for bringing many colourful villains to life. He played Dracula in Francis Ford Coppella’s adaptation of the famous gothic novel. Now I confess I am not the biggest fan of this version.
I don’t really like romantic Vampires and I certainly don’t think Dracula a monster based on Vlad the Impaler works as a tortured, misunderstood soul at all. Hell if anything seeing Vlad ascend to heaven at the end of this story could be seen as inappropriate.
Still fair is fair Gary Oldman is excellent as the count and regardless of whatever I may think of a romantic Dracula, Oldman is really along with Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi one of the most iconic Dacula’s.
If there is another image of the count you will see spoofed in popular culture aside from the amalgam of Lee and Lugosi with the black Widow’s peak, long black and red flowing cape, razor sharp fangs and thick Hungarian accent then its Oldman’s Dracula with the big mad white hair, wrinkled face, long talons and red clothes.
My favourite villainous role of Oldman’s would definitely have to be Norman Stansfield from Leon the Professional. This character is just a total monster through and through unlike Dracula. Oldman is superb at making the character seem genuinely unhinged. Oldman’s performance was very well received. It has been referred to as the role that launched a thousand villains. His death however is my favourite bit of the film as its just such marvellous poetic justice.
Another famous badguy part of his was as Emanuel Zorg in the 5th Element. Oldman himself apparently didn’t think much of his performance in this film and said he felt he was too over the top.
Whilst I am not going to disagree that he was over the top I still think he was by far and away the most entertaining character in the film. The character was already pretty silly lets be honest. I’m not knocking the film I think its very enjoyable, but it does have a certain campy, kitsch appeal and really to me Oldman was right to make the villain similarly campy. If he had played it straight and made the character too serious and even frightening like Stansfield it would have looked out of place.
I think this role demonstrates Oldman’s wide range as a actor. With Commissioner Gordon he is obviously capable of playing a very straight, serious character with gravitas and depth, whilst with this role obviously shows he can camp it up gloriously if need be too.
Arguably his most famous villainous role was as Mason Verger in the 2001 film Hannibal. Verger is a sadistic, psychotic pervert who molests children and animals. He seeks revenge on Hannibal Lector for disfiguring him. The role was somewhat limiting for Oldman as he was for a lot of his time on screen covered in heavy make up. Still Oldman managed to make the character very frightening. He’s just as over the top in many ways but its obviously in a much darker way.
Oldman has played a wide variety of other villainous roles over the years including Carnegie from the Book of Eli, and Dreyfus from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Dreyfus I think was actually one of his best performances as it gave him a chance to play a more nuanced, yet still completely crazy villain.
Oldman truly is one of the greatest actors of his generation and its doubtless that he will continue to play many more colourful villains for years to come.
Mathilda’s family/ Leon the Professional
Norman Stansfield murders Mathilda’s entire family which sets the events of the film in motion. Its kind of like a Spaghetti Western in this respect or a Death Wish movie. Mathilda’s reaction to her family’s murder is truly heartbreaking.
Leon/ Leon the Professional
My favourite moment in the film when Oldman’s villain murders Leon the main hero and we think it is going to be a Blake’s 7 type ending but in a fabulous twist we discover that he has strapped bombs to himself which blows them both sky high.
Lucy Westerna/ Dracula 1992
Though Oldman’s Dracula is more romantic what he does to Lucy is far more horrifying as he rapes her first before turning her into a Vampire.
Again I felt that making Dracula a rapist was a little bit inappropriate when they had him ascend to heaven at the end of the film. Still the chemistry between Oldman and Sadie Frost when Dracula seduces her is strong. Apparently Oldman whispered dirty things to her before the scene in order to get her aroused. She later said that she couldn’t repeat them!
17/ Mark Hamill
The Joker (DCAU), The Trickster (The Flash 1990’s series), Hobgoblin (Spider-Man TAS), Fire Lord Ozai (The Last Airbender)
Mark Hamill is one of 4 actors alongside David Warner, Clancy Brown and Tim Curry who really were the voices of 90’s cartoon villainy.
Of course he is also well known for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars film series, arguably one of the most famous heroes in cinema history.
In many ways Hamill is kind of the anti Lee Van Cleef in that his career can be divided into two half’s like his but, whilst Van Cleef started out playing mostly badguys before moving on to playing almost nothing but heroes, Hamill started out playing mostly heroic characters, before going on to play almost nothing but villains.
Much like Van Cleef, but again in reverse, it was probably down to his looks more than anything else why Hamill was typecast in the early part of his career. Hamill doesn’t really look like a villain. He looks too friendly and almost boyish. Thus naturally this coupled with Star Wars popularity made him a natural choice for the good guy for many years.
All of that changed when he was cast as the Joker in the classic 1992 Batman the animated series. Hamill actually wasn’t their first choice.
Originally Tim Curry had been cast as the Joker and recorded 7 episodes of dialogue before he had to drop out. Different reasons have been given as to why he was replaced including that performing the Joker laugh put too much strain on his vocal chords and that his performance was too dark and frightening.
Whatever the case Hamill who had already played a more straight villain in the series was brought in to replace him.
As much as I love Tim Curry and I am sure he would have been an excellent Joker, Hamill to me is the definitive Joker.
Hamill captured both the comedic and the darker elements of the character which is something I don’t think any other actor has ever really done.
Nicholson and Ledger’s Jokers are both obviously very dark, whilst Cesar Romero’s version from the Adam West series was obviously more comical.
You couldn’t stick Ledger’s Joker in the Adam West series or Romero’s Joker in the Dark Knight without it looking a bit odd.
Hamill’s Joker meanwhile one minute could be a silly, seemingly harmless prankster, then turn into a vicious monster the next.
Some of the episodes he was in where pure Adam West camp like Make Em Laugh which sees the Joker turn three comedians into the most absurd villains through mind control including one called Mighty Mom who at one point spanks Robin!
Then there is Return of the Joker where he captures Robin (who is just a teenage boy) and tortures him for months until he drives him completely insane. When we see him reveal Robin who is now completely insane to Batman and even show him footage he recorded of torturing Robin, describing perversely how he “peeled back the layers of the boys mind” and how he now considers Robin to be his son, its as dark and frightening as any scene involving Ledger and Nicholson’s Jokers.
You can see how much more versatile Hamill’s Joker is from those clips. He is able to switch from one extreme to another effortlessly.
I think this is why I always have Hamill’s voice in my head whenever I read a comic with the Joker because I can imagine his voice in any Joker comic whether that’s the gritty, darker, modern stories or the campy 60’s classics, his voice fits.
On top of that Hamill also has in my opinion at least the best Joker laugh. Its certainly the most distinctive and it has a lot of power behind it too. It really encompasses the all consuming madness of the villain.
Hamill would go on to provide the voice for the Joker in various other animated series and films set within the same continuity as Batman the animated series. These various series were referred to collectively as the DC animated Universe or the DCAU for short.
He played the role in the New Batman Adventures, the sequel to Batman TAS, three episodes of Superman the animated series, a single guest episode of Static Shock, and 6 episodes of Justice League the animated series.
Hamill’s Joker though spending most of his existence torturing Batman also stirred up trouble for many of DC’s other heroes like Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash.
He also played the role in two films Batman Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond Return of the Joker both set within the DCAU.
The DCAU came to an end in 2006 with Justice League Unlimited, but he has since gone on to reprise the role of the Joker in numerous other non DCAU productions including the Arkham video games series which saw him win a BAFTA for his performance.
He is also set to reprise the character in an upcoming animated movie based on the Killing Joke and a new Justice League animated series this year.
Hamill’s success as the Joker would lead to him playing a wide variety of other villainous characters.
He played the Hobgoblin in Spider-Man the animated series. This performance was similar to the Joker in some ways as the Hobgoblin on the surface was another cackling villain. The Hobgoblin however was more of a greedy, lying opportunist underneath the theatrics. The Joker doesn’t really care about money, just causing lots of and lots of pain.
The Hobgoblin meanwhile is all about wealth and power. He is still an enjoyable character even if he isn’t quite as wild. He’s more of a slimy double crosser. In his first story he changes his allegiance about 7 times and stabs just about every character in the back at one point.
My favourite moment is when we see the alternate version of the Hobgoblin who along with the Green Goblin has destroyed all of Manhattan, killing all but two people J Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson. I just love the Hobgoblin’s line when he finds them both sending out a radio broadcast from the Bugle for help
“Sorry this show is cancelled due to low ratings. THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT ALIVE IN THE CITY TO LISTEN!”
The villainous role Hamill has played most often after the Joker is the Trickster, the Flash’s enemy.
He first played the character in the short lived live action Flash series in the 90’s.
This version of the character unlike his lovably roguish comic book counterpart was portrayed as a murdering psychopath. Really he was the Joker in all but name.
This role actually predated Hamill’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime, but whilst I thought the series was good it wasn’t successful and really it would ultimately be the Joker that would help Hamill finally break free from the shadow of Luke Skywalker.
Its a great performance from Hamill and really the closest thing to a live action version of his Joker we will ever see. The character even has a Harley Quinn like sidekick called Prank who is utterly devoted to the Trickster despite his frequent physical and mental abuse of her which includes tying her up and putting a bag that says “nag nag nag” over her head and pushing her out of the getaway vehicle she uses to rescue him “how can I miss you if you won’t go away!”
Hamill later went on to play a much more sympathetic version of the character in Justice League Unlimited a DCAU show.
This version was like his comic book counterpart a loony, but a harmless loony who just causes trouble but doesn’t kill anyone and has more of a friendly rivalry with the Flash.
Hamill also recently reprised the role in the recent Flash live action series meaning he has played the character on and off for over 20 years.
Over the years Hamill has played dozens of villains in animation and live action with his other most famous villainous role being Fire Lord Ozai for the Last Airbender series. Sadly I have not seen this series though so I can’t comment on Hamill’s performance. Hamill has played a few heroes since his role as the Joker such as Wolverine, but still he’s really for the most part a villain actor.
Though he will always be remembered as Luke to those of us who grew up in the 90’s he was the ultimate crazy cackling villain and the definitive Joker.
Tim Drake/ Batman Beyond Return of the Joker
The Joker kidnaps the second Robin Tim Drake and tortures him for weeks on end eventually driving him completely insane.
Its chilling watching the Joker break Robin completely and even though Robin does eventually turn on the Joker it causes Robin to finally completely and utterly break down in despair. We later find out that it took a whole year for Robin to recover from the torture the Joker put him through.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Mark Hamill Joker was the way he always seemed to enjoy hurting people who were more vulnerable. We see this in the episode Joker’s Favour when he torments the hapless Charlie Collins. Threatening him and his wife and child for 2 years and even most disturbingly of all calling his torture of him his hobby. Even the way he twists Harley Quinn’s mind and preys on her love for him can be seen this way.
This is the most disturbing example as Robin is just a child. Batgirl herself is genuinely shocked that he was capable of this and later asks Harley Quinn how she could actually go along with it and you can see even Harley who is more loyal to the Joker than anyone deep down is also horrified at what he has done.
Mr Freeze/ Batman the Animated Series
Hamill played the more straight villain Ferris Boyle prior to being cast as the Joker. At the time this episode was made Tim Curry was still the Joker.
Boyle is responsible for the creation of Mr Freeze. Victor Fries works for Boyle’s company and is trying to find a cure for his wife who is dying from an incurable disease. Boyle however feels Fries’s experiments aren’t going anywhere and decides to shut them down. Doing so will kill Nora but Boyle doesn’t care. After pleading with him to spare her, Victor in desperation pulls a gun on Ferris to stop him after which Ferris when Victor isn’t looking kicks him into several chemicals which causes an explosion that seemingly kills Nora and mutates Victor into Mrr Freeze.
Hamill is just superb in this scene. Boyle in contrast to the Joker is just so weasly, slimy and cowardly, yet extremely vicious too. Its more subtle than the Joker but in his own way Boyle is every bit as twisted.
Bonk/ Batman Beyond Return of the Joker
One of my favourite scenes when one of the Joker’s own henchmen called Bonk tries to turn on him and the Joker pulls a gun on him. Bonk begs for his life only for the Joker to fire anyway revealing its a joke gun. Just as Bonk breathes a sigh of relief the Joker fires it again revealing that it is a spear gun and impales him through the heart.
A classic example of how Hamill’s Joker can be terrifying one minute and hilarious the next and then terrifying again.
16/ Jack Nicholson
The Joker (Batman 1989), Jack Torrrance (The Shining), Frank Costello (The Departed), Daryl Van Horne (The Witches of Eastwick)
Jack Nicholson is probably best known for playing darker, damaged, even crazy characters. Not all of them are villains. He’s played the hero many times such as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’s also played a few completely non villainous roles like the President in Mars Attacks and the ill fated George Hanson in Easy Rider.
One of his more tame and normal characters. Seriously!
Still generally speaking Jack is better known for playing evil bastards. We’ve now moved on to the stage of the list where the actors are really better known as villains. They might have the odd iconic hero role, but when people mention their name its usually a bad guy that springs to mind. Obviously no actor has exclusively played villains, but still there are actors who are better known as villains and I’d say Jack is one of them.
Its hard to say what his most famous villainous role is. Jack’s one of these actors who has had so many iconic performances throughout his entire career that in many ways it all depends on when you were born as to what character you think of him as the most.
Still certainly one of his most enduring characters is Jack Torrance from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Steven King’s novel the Shining. Jack is an abusive father and husband who is driven mad by the ghosts of the hotel he and his family stay in. He eventually tries to murder his wife and son with an axe and kills other people.
The ending hints that his soul has become doomed to haunt the house for all eternity alongside the other ghosts after he freezes to death.
Fewer images have burned themselves into popular culture like Jack Nicholson battering the door down with an axe and sticking his face through the hole to his terrified wife shrieking “HEEEEEERRRRREEEEE’SSSS JOOOOHNNNNNNNYYYYYYY!!!!!!”
The great thing about Torrance is that he isn’t just a psycho. Before the ghosts get anywhere near him you can tell he’s already a horrible guy the way he treats his son and tries to justify it to himself. In many ways the Ghosts just bring out his true self that was always bubbling under the surface.
Jack Nicholson later played the Joker in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Batman in 1989. He was their first choice for the role ahead of the likes of Tim Curry, Willem Defoe and the late David Bowie who were all considered. At the time this movie was a massive success but over the years it and Jack’s Joker have become somewhat polarizing.
Its natural with the new Nolan Batman movies that people would start to compare the two different takes on these characters to one another and in some ways the Nolan movies are superior, but the Burton movies I think hold up and in his own way Jack is every bit as good a Joker as Heath Ledger.
Mark is still my favourite Joker, but I think its important to acknowledge that Jack is actually probably the most influential Joker.
Prior to Jack’s performance as the villain the Joker had been seen by the general public as a campy character like dick dastardly due to Cesar Romero’s performance in the Adam West series and also because comic books in general were seen as silly, frothy nonsense. The villain had been a very dark character at various points throughout his long life in the comics themselves in stories such as Joker’s Five Way Revenge and most famously The Killing Joke, but to the mainstream public I think the Joker was just seen as a campy, silly character that kids sang about in silly versions of Jingle Bells.
Jack’s version really showed the majority of people that the Joker was like Dracula, Blofeld, or Moriarty an over the top, but still serious and menacing villain. I’d actually go one step further and argue was the success of Jack’s Joker that allowed more serious versions of comic book villains in general to appear on the big screen and be accepted by the general public.
Burton’s Batman film really kick started the superhero film craze. Its hard to imagine a world where superhero films weren’t big money spinners, but back in the 80’s Marvel and DC practically couldn’t get arrested. No one really had any faith in superhero films and television series.
The original Adam West Batman was intended to be a serious adaptation of the comic books at first, but the producers felt that no one would ever take a dramatic version of Batman seriously and so they made it into a comedy. It was a comedy classic of course and will always be, but at the same time you can see how the prospects of a serious Batman series or of any series based on a comic book may have seemed grim.
There had been the Hulk television series in the 70’s, which again though brilliant wasn’t faithful to the source material because the producer of the show Kenneth Johnson much like the makers of Batman felt that comic books were too stupid to base a live action series on.
The Superman films of the 70’s and 80’s meanwhile had been more faithful to the source material but even then the villains had still been somewhat light.
Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor is a jokey, bumbling oafish character. He’s not as dark or menacing as his comic book counterpart. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his moments. Technically he does cause the death of Lois Lane before Supes rewrites time.
Still you can tell that the makers of the film felt that they wouldn’t be able to make a character like Lex into a serious villain. Gene Hackman himself even said he was reluctant to play the role because he felt that a comic book villain was the stupidest type of character you could play and was actually worried that it would completely finish his career. He only agreed to play it when he saw the character was more humorous as he felt that was the only way it could work.
Zod meanwhile in Superman 2 is a more serious threat, but even then a lot of the time he is actually used for comedy. We tend to see him more just reacting to things in a bored non chalant way. “Why do you say those things when you know I’ll just kill you”
Clearly few people took super heroes seriously, but no one took comic book villains seriously.
Jack’s Joker changed all of that. He was a comic book villain who was not only serious, but absolutely terrifying at points. He does genuinely horrific things like burn a young woman’s face with acid and eventually drives her to suicide which he later laughs off. He casually guns people down including his own men, he burns people to a crisp and then laughs at the charred remains, he stabs them in the throat, he poisons men, women and children to death with toxic gas.
Best of all however he does all of this in the most absurd, over the tops ways. His Joker doesn’t junk all of the comic book elements of the character. It embraces them. His Joker does stab people, but its with sharpened feathers, he poisons them but in a way that makes them laugh themselves to death, and he burns them to death with lethal joybuzzers. In contrast to the Hulk tv series that was utterly ashamed of its comic book roots or even the Superman films that were somewhat self conscious of them Jacks Joker positively revels in them and still manages to be 100 percent serious. Its as camp as can be yet still a dark, dramatic movie.
And people said the Burton movies weren’t camp
The thing about comic books is that they tend to be exaggerated. Everything about them, the way they are drawn, the types of stories and characters they have, even the dialogue.
I wouldn’t say that comic book is a genre, its a medium that requires larger than life qualities and thus any adaptation in other mediums needs to retain those qualities to a certain degree if its to maintain the spirit of the source material .
Now I can understand why comic books can be seen as comical to some, and they can certainly be interpreted that way as seen with Adam West, but at the end of the day its a medium like any other and it can be used for more serious stories.
Burtons Batman and Jack’s Joker in particular proved to mainstream audiences that the comic book style could be used to tell serious stories.
Jack’s Joker’s origin for instance is over the top, sensational and comic booky, but its also effective from a dramatic point of view when we see Jack Napier, a vain, humourless man become horrificly disfigured and degenerate into a mere shell of his former self mentally.
He and Batman also despite being such larger than life characters also have as effective a relationship as any other hero and villain. There are shades of Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson from Once Upon A Time in the West as we see how the Joker butchered Bruce Wayen’s parents.
After Jack’s Joker the role of the villain in comic book movies would usually be taken seriously and like Jack’s Joker they would also usually be over the top and comic booky.
The Green Goblin the main villain in Spider-Man played by Willem Dafoe is a sadistic monster who murders scores of innocent people, tries to kill children and even at one point promises to torture and rape Mary Jane to death! At the same time he is every bit as cartoonish as you can imagine. Just look at his costume! Then there is also Yellow Bastard from Sin City who is again as over the top a character as is possible (his skin turns yellow after he takes drugs to regrow his penis!) yet he is truly frightening villain. He is a child molester who enjoys torturing little girls as he can only get an erection when he hears them scream!
Villains like this are worlds away from Hackman’s likable jokey Lex Luthor who called himself “Lexy baby”. That’s not to do down Hackman who was excellent as Luthor, but you can see how Jack Nicholson as the Joker really is the daddy of all modern day comic book supervillains on film.
Even on television his influence can be seen in later portrayals of the Joker and other villains. Look at Jerome the possible proto Joker from Gotham, a twisted psychopath who murders his own mother because he thinks she is a filthy whore and later stabs his blind, ailing father in the eye with a pair of scissors. I think its safe to say that Jerome’s Joker follows on from Nicholson more than Romero.
The only way tv producers felt the Joker could possibly be brought to life on television in the 60’s. As a camp pansy that gets beaten up by an old man.
How the Joker is always portrayed post Jack Nicholson, as a sadistic, bloodthirsty monster that commits the most unspeakable crimes and then has a good laugh about it.
Even in animation Jack’s influence can be seen just as clearly. The Burton Batman directly inspired Batman the animated series which in turn led to the creation of the DCAU. Bruce Timm who created the DCAU along with writer Paul Dini said that Batman the Animated Series would never have been made without the 1989 Batman. The design of the Joker voiced by Mark Hamill in Batman the animated series as well as his backstory and characterisation were all inspired by Nicholson’s Joker. The Hamill Joker’s real name is Jack Napier which is the identity of Jack Nicholson’s Joker. He is also shown to be a sadistic mob enforcer before he becomes the Joker like Jack Nicholson’s Joker. In the comic books the Joker (whose real identity was never known) was a colourful criminal called the red hood before falling into the vat of chemicals.
Also whilst Mark’s Joker never murdered Batman’s parents like Jack he does murder the father of Batman’s one true love Andrea Buemont. Andrea much like the Michael Keaton version of Batman later hunts the Joker down and tries to murder him for what he did. The scene of the Joker murdering Andrea’s father and casually walking away as he hears her scream in anguish was directly inspired by the sequence where a young Jack Napier murders Bruce Wayne’s parents in front of him.
You only have to look at cartoons before and after Jack’s Joker. There is as big a difference as there is between the Jokers on television both before and after.
Pre Jack cartoon Joker, as harmless and as silly as Cesar Romero’s Joker.
Post Jack cartoon Joker, the stuff of nightmares!
Its incredible really when you think of how the Joker went from being in the 60’s a character that people felt outside of the comic books could never be portrayed as anything but a complete joke to a character who is now taken so seriously that even in a Saturday morning cartoon aimed at children he is still almost always portrayed as a murdering psychopath. That’s all down to Jack Nicholson’s performance and thus really I don’t think you can say that any other actor who has played the Joker has had quite the same impact in the role as Jack.
I think that very few film villains in general have quite as large a legacy as Jack’s Joker.
Aside from his legacy I’d say that the thing about Jack’s Joker that really makes him stand out when compared to actors versions of the character is the way that he captures the black comedy of the villain.
Mark as we have seen has the biggest range in the role, Heath Ledger’s Joker meanwhile really captured the unstoppable, chaotic nature of the character as well as the sheer intensity of his relationship with Batman, whilst Cesar Romero captured the goofy, fun elements.
Jack’s Joker however was the best at doing the most horrendous things yet still getting the audience to laugh. Whether that’s casually shooting Bob his most loyal henchman, dancing a jig as he burns someone to death or even his joke about turning his lover into a living work of art by burning her face off with acid and then asking in all seriousness to Vicki Vale “Well I’m no Piccasso but do you like it?”
Best of all is his brutal murder of his former boss played by Jack Palance who he later says of “He was a terrorist and a murderer and an evil, evil man. On the other hand he had a tremendous singing voice.”
I remember reading one critic negatively compare Nicholson’s Joker to Ledgers by saying that Nicholson’s Joker now seems as clownish as Romero’s compared to Ledger.
To me that misses the point of Nicholson’s and Ledger’s Jokers. Nicholson’s was meant to be more clownish. More over the top. The aspect that he and Tim Burton were most interested in was exploiting the black comedy around the character. Ledger and Nolan by their own admission were more interested in focusing on the mystery of the character and his relationship with Batman. As far as I’m concerned both completely succeeded in accomplishing what they set out to do which was very different.
Nicholson like Hamill was a massive comic book fan and like Hamill the Joker had actually been his favourite character. I think that he and Hamill really threw themselves into the part as a result.
Jack said that he felt the Joker was really more like a psychotic version of Bugs Bunny which in a way he is. He’s fiendishly clever and he makes us laugh when he hurts people. He just goes a little too far unlike Bugs.
With the Joker Jack achieved what Boris Karloff did with the Frankenstein Monster and Bela Lugosi did with Dracula in that he defined what is one of the most iconic fictional characters to the point were almost all future portrayals one way or another owe something to their performance as the character.
Jack has played a variety of other evil characters such as the Devil in the Witches of Eastwick in what is a show stealing performance (like most of Jack’s). I will say thought that I think that Tim Curry is still the definitive on screen Satan in Darkness. Jack Nicholson was definitely the right choice for the Joker, but Curry makes a better Satan in my opinion.
Another one of Jack’s big bad guy roles was as Nathan R Jessup in A Few Good Men. A more subdued performance than the Joker or Jack Torrance, Nathan R Jessup was really more of a corrupt figure of power than a true monster. Jessup however has one of Jack’s most iconic moments when he spits out “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
That’s always been one of the great things about Jack Nicholson is the way he is able to take a line that is completely mundane and make it iconic. There’s nothing special about “You can’t handle the truth” its a completely normal piece of dialogue, but its purely the way he said it that’s made it one of the most quotable lines from any film.
The same applies for his memorable delivery of “why can’t we all just get along” in Mars Attacks.
Jack’s last big villain role before his retirement was as Frank Costello in Martin Scorcese’s 2006 film The Departed. Costello was again not quite as OTT as the Joker, but was still a total sleaze bag. It was in many ways a more unglamorous role as Costello was like an aging bully. Knowing he is coming to the end of his time, but not accepting it gracefully which just makes him even more vicious, petty and bitter.
Though Jack has had a very long and wide ranging career. Everything from Sci Fi to crime thrillers to rom coms I personally think his best performances have been as villains. I’m not saying he is bad as the hero by any means, but I think I generally speaking prefer it when he gets a chance to be really evil and twisted.
Scatman Crothers/ The Shinning
Jack kills Crothers by stabbing him in the gut with an axe in the Shinning. Its easily one of the most memorable scenes from the film as its so sudden and brutal. Though there is a bit of a comical element there as the supposed clairvoyant fails to notice an axe wielding Jack Nicholson round the corner.
Jack tends to stick out in a crowd even when he isn’t holding an axe and limping with a murderous look on his face.
In real life Scatman and Jack were very close friends and in fact it was on Jack’s recommendation to director Stanley Kubrick that Scatman got the part.
A classic example of the black comedy in Burtons Batman. Earlier in the film the Joker had declared that Bob was his number one guy yet here he kills him on a whim. It wasn’t even Bob’s fault that Batman stole the balloons he was using to gas the city, but he just blasts him anyway.
Of course when you think about it him saying that Bob was his number 1 guy and then killing him is actually a clever little joke against his former boss played by Jack Palance who said to Jack right before setting him up to die that he was his number 1 guy too.
The Joker was even doing an impression of Palance when he told Bob he was his number 1 guy which makes me think that he had planned to kill Bob since he first told that as part o the joke. He just wanted to wait for the right moment to do it.
You have to feel sorry for Bob as he clearly thought the Joker was being serious when he said he was his main guy and trusted him completely, hence why he handed him his gun when the Joker asked for it.
Just goes to show you if some insane, sleazy, perverted, murdering crime lord says you’re his number 1 guy he’s probably lying.
Another hilarious scene in a twisted kind of a way, The Joker kills Tony by burning him to death with his electric Joybuzzer.
What makes this scene is how much Jack relishes in the brutal yet flamboyant nature of the Joker. Again I think this is what made his Joker the precursor to modern comic book movie villains. Where as Gene Hackman only wanted to play Lex if he were a buffoon because he thought the character was too stupid to be taken seriously, Jack who was a life long fan of Batman absolutely loved the character of the Joker and threw himself into the part with unashamed evil glee.
He’s almost like a child here dancing around and laughing and singing as he slowly roasts a man into nothing but a charred skeleton.
15/ Charles Dance
Tywin Lannister (Game of Thrones), The Witchfinder (Merlin), Kenneth Crisby (Randall and Hopkirk Deceased), Benedict (The Last Action Hero)
With his long thin cruel looking face, imposing frame and deep booming, scary voice, Charles Dance is every inch the perfect evil Brit.
He has played a few non villainous and even some romantic roles over the course of his career such as Ellen Ripley’s ill fated love interest Clemens in Alien 3. This has always been one of my favourite performances of his simply because of the chemistry he and Sigourney Weaver had. I felt their relationship was far more interesting than her one with Dwayne Hicks in Aliens. Its just such a shame that he gets killed off too early in the film as he really is one of the best things in it.
Still overall I think its fair to say that whenever you see Charles Dance on screen there is a good chance that he is going to be evil. Dance himself has mentioned that the older he gets the more he tends to get offered villainous roles.
One of Dance’s first big villainous roles was as the main antagonist, the Demonic Sardo Numspa in the 1986 fantasy comedy The Golden Child.
The film is not bad overall. It was universally slated by the critics at the time but overall I found it to be a lot more enjoyable than its reputation would suggest.
Still Dance’s character is definitely the best thing in the film as he manages to create a villain who is quite sophisticated, urbane and witty yet also a complete oaf in some ways too.
Dance would go on to play the main villain in another classic action Comedy, The Last Action Hero.
Once again Dance demonstrated his talent for comedy as Benedict is an even more outrageous villain than Sardo.
Benedict is a film villain who is able to enter the real world and who plans to bring forth an army of the worst villains from films to conquer the world such as Dracula, Rosemary’s Baby and Adolf Hitler.
He also has a glass eye which changes from scene to scene. Whilst I love the film overall I’d still say that Dance is the best thing about it with his grand delivery of lines such as “if God were a villain he’d be me” helping to make the film.
Throughout the 90’s and the 00’s Dance would continue to play a number of villains on both film and television including as Kenneth Crisby in the first episode of Randall and Hopkirk Deceased opposite an early, pre Doctor Who David Tennant. The both of them were responsible for one of the main protagonists Marty Hopkirk’s death, resulting in him coming back as a ghost.
I always really liked this episode of the series because of how well Dance and Tennant played off of one another. Tennant’s character Sallis is just completely batshit mental. He is a cross dressing, homicidal artist who murders his own fiance (and later dresses up as her and argues with himself). He also has chainsaw wielding robots which eventually turn on him and slice him down the middle.
Dance’s villain meanwhile was the classic, cold, arrogant, steely, suave villain who seems in complete control of everything around him as opposed to the hysterical, screaming Tennant, yet underneath he is every bit as sadistic as seen when he is happy to torture Jeff Randall along with Sallis. In fact he is arguably worse as unlike Sallis who is absolutely out of his mind he is completely aware of what he is doing.
Dance also played the Witchfinder Aredian in Merlin. Once again this was always one of my favourite episodes because of how effective a villain Dance is.
The scenes where he brutally tortures Gaius played by Richard Wilson are among the darkest moments in the entire series. Once again Dance underplays it, but still manages to give the impression that Aredian absolutely relishes in torturing Gaius, even just in subtle ways like when he smiles after Gaius tells him that he would rather die than betray his friends. That small moment takes you deep into how twisted Aredian is as it lets you know that he actually wanted Gaius to say that so that he could torture him some more.
Colin Morgan who played Merlin said in an interview after the show finished that if he could have played any other role in the series then it would have been Dance’s.
In the 2010’s Dance would win a whole new generation of fans when he played Tywin Lannister in George R Martin’s classic fantasy series Game of Thrones.
I was glad to see him get such a big part as I always felt that Dance had been somewhat wasted. He did have a steady career and appeared in many classic films and television series such as The Jewel in the Crown, but ultimately I think he never really got that one big iconic villainous role.
Not all villain actors do of course and many can become just as iconic through playing many different villains, but still I always felt that Dance could have played a really big villain like say a Bond villain or Lex Luthor or The Master from Doctor Who. He would have been excellent in all of those roles.
Thus the role of Tywin I feel finally gave him that character. Tywin for me was one of the most interesting villains in the series as unlike say Joffrey he isn’t just a complete psychopath. He is more a man hardened by the dark times he lives in as he saw his father, a kind and amicable man lose everything for that very reason and thus is determined to restore dignity to his family name.
Since landing the role of Tywin Dance’s career has reached new heights and its doubtless that he will continue to play many more cultured, suave villains in years to come.
Richard Wilson/ Merlin
The Witchfinder tortures Wilson’s character for information on Merlin and Morgana who he believes are both sorcerers. To be fair to the Witchfinder the two people he suspects of being sorcerers are actually the only two people in the Kings court who ARE sorcerers. Even though he may frame people he is quite good at his job.
Gaius resists the torture but The Witchfinder manages to break him in the end by threatening to expose Merlin as a sorcerer unless he confesses. After Gaius is forced to confess then Aredian goes back on his word and says that he will still expose Merlin and Morgana anyway.
Dracula/ Dracula Untold
Dance plays the first vampire who turns Dracula into a Vampire. To be fair he does warn him about what he is getting into but still the ending of the film hints that he may have been manipulating him from afar the whole time.
Kee/The Golden Child
She is killed by an arrow in order to save Chandlers life. It is her death that really motivates him to stop Dance’s character.
14/ Basil Rathbone
Sir Guy of Gisbourne (The Adventures of Robin Hood), Levasseur (Captain Blood), Richard the Third (Tower of London), Mr Carmichael (Tales of Terror)
The definition of elegant evil, Basil Rathbone in all fairness is possibly best remembered for playing Sherlock Holmes in a series of films throughout the 30’s and 40’s. He played the great detective in 13 films in total and his performance is definitely the most celebrated big screen version of the character. His version Sherlock Holmes was also an influence on the modern BBC drama Sherlock as it too was a modern day retelling of Holmes’s original stories.
Still despite this other than his performance as Holmes Rathbone was most often the villain. A highly skilled fencer in real life Rathbone would often be called on to duel with the hero in long drawn out sword fights. This would later be parodied in the Jackie Chan film Shanghai Knights when the main villain played by Aidan Gillan who is described as the best swordsman in the country is called Lord Rathbone.
Rathbone’s most famous villainous role was as Sir Guy in the 1938 classic The Adventure of Robin Hood. In this version Sir Guy was portrayed as being Robin’s archenemy instead of the Sheriff.
The Sheriff was more of a bumbling oaf in this version (though he did exhibit some intelligence at certain points) Sir Guy meanwhile was not only a physical match for Robin but also a rival for the affections of Maid Marian.
This would prove influential on subsequent versions of Robin Hood which would often beef Sir Guys role, though often the Sheriff will still be the true mastermind, many later versions see Sir Guy become the physical match for Robin as well as his love rival such as the 70’s series The Legend of Robin Hood or the 00’s BBC series Robin Hood.
The final duel between Sir Guy and Robin played by Errol Flynn is often regarded as one of the greatest sword fights in the history of cinema. Though it was not the first time Flynn and Rathbone had duelled with swords on screen. They first fought each other in Captain Blood in which Rathbone again played the devious villain, but this fight was much more famous and has gone on to influence similar fights in other works over the years.
Another famous swashbuckling villainous role of Rathbone’s was as Captain Esteban Pasquale in The Mark of Zorro.
Though he may be more famous to mainstream critics for his swashbuckling films and his performance as Sherlock Holmes he did make a fair amount of horror films too, often again as the villain. Many even regard him as a master of horror alongside such actors as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee. I personally wouldn’t go that far only as I don’t think he really made a comparable impact as a horror icon to them. As a cinema icon through Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood yes, but in terms of his horror movies I just don’t think he had quite the same impact.
He did still make a number of classic horror movies however and worked with such big names as Boris Karloff and Vincent Price many times.
One of his first big horror roles was as Richard the third in Tower of London. Here he had the honour of killing Vincent Price by drowning him in a massive vat of wine! He and Price who were good friends in real life often killed and tortured each other on screen such as in Tales of Terror, where Rathbone traps Price’s soul in his body after he dies to torment him or Comedy of Terrors where Price kills Rathbone about 5 times!
Rathbone was a truly gifted actor who though probably best remembered for playing the heroic Sherlock Holmes was without doubt the best swashbuckling villain in the history of film.
Here is the great man in action though sadly despite his incredible skill in real life he actually only one one sword fight on screen in the 1936 movie Romeo and Juliet. Still that’s what happens when you always play the villain.
Vincent Price/ Tower of London
Rathbone kills Price by challenging him to a drinking competition after which he then drowns him in a vat of wine. Rathbone does get some help from Boris Karloff, but still I am listing this as one of Rathbone’s victims. What’s funny about this is that Price would later kill one of his many victims in Theatre of Blood in exactly the same way.
Boris Karloff/ Son of Frankenstein
Though this was when Rathbone was a hero I’m still listing it anyway as this is quite a spectacular sequence as we have Rathbone swing through the air like Tarzan and drop kick the Frankenstein Monster played by Boris Karloff into a pit of tar.
As many critics have pointed out over the years the ending of this film and the final shot of the monster writhing around in the tar before it sinks may have been an influence on the T-1000’s death in Terminator 2.
Bela Lugosi/ Son of Frankenstein
Rathbone kills him by shooting him in the gut, though the sequel retcons it that he survived. Though Rathbone is the good guy this always struck me as a bit of a dodgy thing for the hero to do. He basically just decides to kill Iygor tracks him down and then shoots him and boasts about it to the police officer afterwards. To be fair the policeman does say he thinks he’s a worse fiend than his father, but he still gets off with it at the end.
13/ Malcolm McDowell
Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange), Caligula (Caligula), Metallo (DCAU), Tollan Soran (Star Trek Generations)
A charismatic and engaging actor, McDowell is known for appearing in somewhat controversial, and edgy films.
From the very beginning when he starred in If an X film about a brutal boys boarding school as well as its sequels McDowell earned a reputation as a somewhat daring, edgy actor.
It would ultimately be Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece A Clockwork Orange that would really be his big break.
Though it was banned in the UK for almost 27 years by its own director, the film is now regarded as a classic and McDowell’s character Alex DeLarge is often regarded by critics as one of the greatest film villains of all time.
DeLarge is a fascinating character. He is a cultured and intelligent thug, a violent little hoodlum with a taste for the finer things and a love for Ludwig Van Beethoven. He’s not just some little punk who has spent his whole life on the street nor is he insane. He has had a privileged life and knows exactly what he is doing which makes him even more deplorable.
Ultimately however the film focuses not on how twisted DeLarge is but rather the society he lives in is. We see this in the way it deals with a monster like DeLarge. On the one hand even despite his heinous crimes their treatment of him is still utterly inhuman. They torture him for weeks on end to the point where he is unable to defend himself in a fight or even enjoy a sex life. He suffer greatly not only at the prison wardens hands but also on the outside at the police who take advantage of the fact that he is unable to defend himself and beat him almost to death. Their actions very nearly drive him to suicide.
Still in spite of all of this Alex incredibly enough ends up getting away with all of his crimes as the government in order to cover up their own dodgy actions end up rewarding him with money and status.
Had he been rehabilitated in a proper humane way then he could have actually been made to feel sorrow for his crimes and properly paid for them, but now he’s likely to be worse than ever before and be able to get away with it now.
Whilst A Clockwork Orange is a classic that launched McDowell’s career abroad it did somewhat typecast him as depraved villains though he would often become the go to guy for evil Brit’s in Hollywood films from then on.
He played Caligula in a biopic of the emperor’s life in the 70’s. Sadly whilst McDowell was good in the role his Caligula wasn’t nearly as good as John Hurt’s.
Really it felt like the makers of this film was just trying to outdo the baby eating scene in I Claudius.
In the later years of his career McDowell in contrast the hoodlums he used to play in his youth would often play the more cultured evil Brit.
He played Metallo in Superman the animated series and would later reprise the role in both Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and Sorin in Star Trek Generations.
Once again there was controversy over his character in Star Trek as he was responsible for the death of Captain Kirk.
In recent years McDowell has branched out somewhat and taken on more sympathetic roles such as Doctor Loomis in the remake of Halloween, a role which was taken by an actor typecast as villains in the original Halloween. Apparently this was partly why the director of the film Rob Zombie cast McDowell.
Still most of his career has been spent playing villains and as Alex Delarge alone never mind the other memorable characters he has brought to life, he will always be remembered as one of the most exceptional on screen villains.
Cat Lady/ A Clockwork Orange
A classic example of the films black comedy, Alex kills the Cat Lady when he hits her with a giant statue of a penis. I often wonder what it would have been like if we saw Alex’s trial and they brought out the murder weapon. Such a scene might have made the film seem too comical.
Captain Kirk/ Star Trek Generations
The scene that most Trekkie’s despise, I must confess I was very disappointed with how anti climactic Kirk’s death was too.
Still at least he died facing down a villain played by an actor of McDowell’s calibre. McDowell said that he was looking forward to killing Kirk as its not every day you get to kill off one of the most iconic television characters of all time.
Adrienne Corri/ A Clockwork Orange
Corri plays Alex’s rape victim. It’s a truly horrifying moment as Alex dances around beating her husband as his thugs strip and gag her.
You’ll never listen to singing in the rain in quite the same way again.
12/ Robert Englund
Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street film series), The Phantom of the Opera (The Phantom Mortality 1989), Gammil (Charmed), Mayor George W Buckman (Maniacs)
Robert Englund began his career playing most nice guys. He was often cast as the downtrodden, nerdy character. He didn’t really look menacing and in real life by all accounts he is supposed to be one of the nicest, sweetest gentlemen you could ever hope to meet.
Many of the make up artists who worked on the Nightmare on Elm Street Series said that it was hard for them to make Robert seem scary even with the scary make up because he was such a lovely man.
When he was cast as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street it was actually intended to be a case of playing against type with nobody believing that nice guy Robert Englund could play the evil serial killer, child molester and rapist Freddy Krueger!
Of course it ended up working so well that he would become almost nothing but a villain actor for the rest of his career as well as a horror actor too. In many ways this was comparable to Leslie Neilson in Aeroplane. Prior to his role in Aeroplane Neilson had been known as serious dramatic actor having starred in films like the sci fi classic Forbidden Planet. He was cast in Aeroplane because the makers of the film thought it would be amusing to have such a respected actor do silly things. Ultimately however it worked so well that Neilson ended up becoming a popular comedy actor in The Naked Gun.
Freddy Krueger was a brilliant creation because he was just an absolute monster through and through.When he was attacking the main characters he was almost like an animal, roaring and hissing. Freddy seems so savage that you get the impression that he has lost any tiny grain of humanity he may have once had and now lives only for the kill.
Englund would go on to reprise the role of Freddy in 7 sequels as well as an anthology television series called Freddy’s Nightmare’s. Freddy usually just introduced each episode, but occasionally he did play a role in some episodes such as the pilot which showed us Freddy’s origins in great detail.
He also reprised the role in the music video Are You Ready by the Fat Boys.
Englund became a horror star much like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Boris Karloff and he would go on to play many more frightening villainous characters such as the Phantom of the Opera and Mayor Buckman in the 2005 horror film Maniacs.
Maniacs I think is a very underrated horror flick. Its a total gore fest but that’s part of its charm as the killings are just so ridiculously over the top its almost like a cartoon. Englunds character who is the leader of the crazed town is without doubt the most demented and vile character in the film. I remember the first time I saw it thinking when the hero was fighting Englund at the end that you actually wouldn’t care about getting away just making sure you got him!
Since his role as Freddy he has played a few non villainous roles such as in Wishmaster. Though Wishmaster cast a few actors famous for playing villains such as Tony Todd better known as the Candy Man as the main villains victims.
Still overall he is best known as a villain actor to modern audiences and as the man who brought Freddy Krueger to life he will always be a true horror icon.
Tina/ Nightmare on Elm Street
The first victim in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Poor old Tina is tormented by Freddy who attacks her night after night in her dreams, chasing her, tormenting her, before eventually raping and slicing her to bits!
Its not quite as explicit as later deaths in the series but it really takes us deep into the depravity of Freddy Krueger.
Johnny Depp/ A Nightmare on Elm Street
This actually marked Deppp’s film debut. He and Englund were good friends in real life. Depp’s character is killed when he falls asleep whilst watching over Nancy and is pulled into his bed by Freddy. We don’t know what it is Freddy does to him but he explodes into nothing but blood so I’d wager it wasn’t too pleasant.
Jennifer/ A Nightmare on Elm Street 3
A short but brutal moment. Freddy kills her by smashing her head into a television. As horrible a scene as this is compared to Tina, Jennifer got off very lightly.
11/ Eric Roberts
The Master (Doctor Who), Sal Maroni (The Dark Knight), James Munroe (The Expendables), Mongul (DCAU)
Eric Roberts has had a very unusual career. One minute he will be in what is considered one of the greatest films ever made like The Dark Knight in a big role where he is praised and then he will be in a straight to DVD Z movie like Sharktopus.
Journalists and film critics I think have given up trying to figure out what stage his career is at. Just when they are ready to say that he is washed up and can only get work in straight to DVD crap then he will be in a massive blockbuster like The Expendables. That’s pretty much what his career has been like right the way through.
I think he is comparable to Christopher Lee and Tim Curry in this respect in that all 3 aren’t picky about what films and tv series they make.
Even though they are all big names they will all still be in just about anything. Of course whilst this has led all three to being in utter shit like Captain America 2, Congo and Sharktopus, it has also I think allowed them all to be in offbeat movies that most other actors would have turned down like The Wicker Man and The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Inherrent Vice.
Its also made all 3 actors careers more varied. You could do a book called the films of Christopher Lee or the films Tim Curry and there would be so much you could put in both from classic comedies to iconic horror movies to musicals and at the same time you could do a films of Eric Roberts book and it would be equally as varied. You’d have everything from Doctor Who to Batman to Sylvester Stallone films to cheesy giant monster flicks.
Whilst he has had a very varied career he has more often than not been cast as the horrible slimy, smug, sleazy villain.
There are simply too many villain roles to list here and also unlike a lot of other actors on this list like say Robert Englund with Freddy there isn’t really one particular villain role he has been associated with more than the rest so I’ll just quickly run through my faves.
His best film is without doubt The Dark Knight. His character Sal Maroni is a perfect contrast to the more colourful villains of the piece like The Joker and Two Face. He is every bit as amoral as they are in some ways but he is more an example of the banality of evil. Just a greedy, self serving, lying crook as opposed to the flamboyantly evil, anarchic and chaotic Joker. He still however has a hand in some of the worst acts of evil in the film and the moral of the movie is that its people like him who allow the likes of the Joker to flourish as they create such a poisonous and corrupt society and don’t care who gets hurt. Of course its a glorious irony when Two Face a monster he had a hand in creating ends up killing him.
Whilst Roberts is excellent as Sal Maroni I think my favourite villainous performance of his is James Munroe in The Expendables. Munroe is almost like a Bond villain. He’s the perfect criminal mastermind always two steps ahead of the heroes and inhumanely brutal too. His vilest moment is when he has Sandra prisoner and taunts her about how he would never hit a woman right before smacking her across the jaw and then having her waterboarded for days on end non stop.
Over the years Roberts has done a lot of voice work and definitely my favourite vocal performance of his was as Mongul in the DCAU Justice League series. Once again even in a cartoon Roberts plays the smug snake villain as Mongul is a warped sadist who literally laughs at even the Justice League’s attempts to threaten him. Mongul’s best appearance is in the Justice League Unlimited episode “For the Man Who Has Everything”
In this episode he attaches a parasite onto Superman that makes him live in a perfect dream world where has children. Mongul comes to the conclusion that Superman is the only one who can threaten him and thus with him out of the way he can dispose of the rest of the Justice League. The comic is based on a famous story of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
This is an excellent adaptation in fact I’d go as far as to say along with the final episode of Justice League Unlimited this is the best episode of the entire series.
Its truly horrific what Mongul does to Superman. Make him imagine that he is back on Krypton that he has people who love him two children and then after 60 years (from Superman’s perspective) when he realizes that it is a dream he is a broken man. Imagine if you discovered your entire life was just a dream, that everyone you ever loved was just a figment of your imagination and that you had to go back to a life where your entire world was dead!
At one point the parasite latches itself on to Batman too and he dreams that he is in a world where his parents were never killed. Its truly heartbreaking watching the young Bruce be pulled from his dream and thus lose his parents a second time.
Roberts is terrifying as Mongul. He is the ultimate DCAU villain with Batman, Wonder Woman and even Superman all being powerless to stop him. In the end they are forced to use his own parasite against him which traps him in his own perfect dream world. We don’t see his dream world, but we do hear screams as we see a smile form on his face which gives us an idea of the horrors he wanted to inflict on the real world. Its one of the darkest moments in the series by far. Its also a horrible irony that Mongul one of the most despicable characters in the series gets completely away with his crimes. As Batman himself bitterly says his ultimate fate is too good for him.
The Dark Knight wasn’t the first time Roberts fought Batman
A very underrated performance of Roberts was as The Master in Doctor Who.
Many people have criticized his take on the villain for being too camp, but I think it worked as his take was ultimately a lot closer to the villain than those who came after as his take was more of a manipulative, ruthless, charming sociopath who despised the Doctor as opposed to a complete lunatic like the versions of New Who.
Overall I’d rank Roberts very highly. He may have been in some really crappy films over the years but I think he has a decent body of work as a character actor and is an all around brilliant villain.
His Wife/ Doctor Who
In the Doctor Who movie his first victim who is unnamed is in fact played by his own wife Eliza. The Master kills her swiftly by breaking her neck after possessing her husband Bruce.
Sandra/ The Expendables
Poor Sandra after being smacked by Munroe is tortured for days when he has her waterboarded. Though she is later rescued by Sylvester Stallone the torture scenes are still very explicit and there was much controversy over them.
The Master kills him by snapping his neck like a twig. What’s quite funny in a dark way about this death is the way the Master second before killing Chang tells him that he loves him like a son. Though to be fair I can believe the Master would do that to his son.
10/ Robert Carlyle
Albie Kinsella (Cracker), Renard (The World is Not Enough), Don Harris (28 Weeks Later), Rumplestiltskin (Once Upon A Time)
One of the UK’s most popular and respected character actors, Carlyle’s career has mostly been spent playing the most twisted and violent villains. I’ve never actually seen him in something where he doesn’t violently kill someone. Though I’m told he doesn’t in the Full Monty, but still even in his directoral debut The Legend of Barney Thompson where he plays quite a put upon, tragic, sympathetic character he still murders about 3 people.
I find that Carlyle is often at his best when he is playing villains who are incredibly violent and brutal yet at the same time also quite pathetic and even quite tragic in some ways.
He has a lot of charisma as an actor and his accent alone gives him a lot of menace. Yet at the same time I feel he also has a lot of gravitas and is able to inject a lot of torment and confliction into many of his villains too which helps to flesh them out and make them seem more than just one note lunatics.
We can see this in so many of his characters such as Don Harris from 28 Weeks Later. Don is a coward who abandons his wife and a small child to be torn to pieces by Zombies, (well not Zombies but rage infected humans. I’ll just say Zombies for practicality sake. To be fair they do fulfil the same role as zombies and zombies come in many different shapes and sizes.) Despite his chickening out Don is a character you can feel sympathy for. He isn’t like say Doctor Smith from Lost in Space, a total miserable coward devoid of any redeeming qualities.
He does try and save his wife and even fights off the Zombies at first, but its only when the house gets completely overwhelmed by the zombies that he flees. As bad as this may seem I’m not sure many of us wouldn’t react the same way. Imagine it being faced with the prospect of possibly the most horrifying death known to man and having the choice of either escaping or staying and fighting in what is most likely a futile attempt to save someone else.
You can tell even Don is shocked at what he is doing. In that one moment of sheer terror he gave in and again none of us can say that we might not do the same. Don clearly did think that when it mattered he would be there for the person that meant the most to him, as we all like to think we would, but ultimately his fear overwhelmed him.
His cowardice though deplorable is also very human and Carlyle brilliantly captures the shame and guilt Don feels for the rest of the film before he becomes a Zombie. When he is lying to his children about how their mother dies you get the impression that he is lying to himself just as much, trying to convince himself that there was nothing he could have done to help her. Its a brilliantly acted scene.
Carlyle’s most recent high profile that of Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon A Time is a truly fascinating character as there are so many different sides to his personality.
On the one hand he is a frightening, vicious even somewhat sexy villain. Its quite bizarre how large a female fanbase the character of Rumple has considering he is a horrible, green skinned little imp!
At the same time however Rumple was also under his bravdo a miserable coward and quite a tragic even pathetic character.
Prior to becoming the Dark one Rumple led a truly miserable life where everyone he ever cared about abandoned him except for his own son who was now being made to fight in a pointless war where he would most likely die.
His own father abandoned him as a child, his own wife grew to despise him for bringing shame to their family because he injured himself in order to avoid going to war (so that he could be with her and their son.) and left him for another man, who subsequently humiliated him by giving the weak and limp Rumple a chance to fight for her which he turned down.
Everyone in his own village hates him as they view him as a coward. He has no friends, no one except his son and when he breaks down in tears at the thought of his son going to war its impossible not to feel sorry for him.
He only takes the power of the Dark one in the hopes that he can use it to save his son and end the war. Unfortunately he is consumed by the power and it corrupts him instantly. Still as wicked as he becomes you can understand where he is coming from. He is someone who has constantly been made to feel as though he is worthless and now his son is going to be taken away from him to die in someone else’s conflict and thus when finally given power to make these people who have been tormenting him his entire life pay he relishes in it.
My favourite moment is when he gets revenge on a group of soldiers who had earlier humiliated him and actually forced him to kiss their boots in front of his own son.
In a later episode Rumple tells his apprentice and lover Cora that whenever he needs to summon dark magic then he takes himself back to this moment. When a man forced him to debase himself in front of his only son and he rips his throat out. I love the way Carlyle plays this scene. You can see him overcome with rage yet he underplays it as at the same time as Rumple clearly wants this moment to last. He wants the soldiers to feel the same fear and degradation that he did. Whilst he turns himself into a monster to protect the only person he has left his son, sadly this ultimately causes Rumple to lose his son too as he grows to despise what he has become.
The last thing you want to be is at the mercy of a Robert Carlyle villain.
Its hard to say what role Carlyle is most famous for.To modern audiences it probably is Rumple but he has had so many high profile roles over the years and the overwhelming majority of them apart from a few exceptions such as Hamish Macbeth are murdering sociopath’s. He’s been everyone from Hitler to Dracula.
The role that made him known across the entire United Kingdom was the evil, racist serial killer and rapist Albie Kinsella in Cracker.
Albie’s character was a very controversial villain to his killing off the character of David Bilbrough played by Christopher Eccelston. A scene involving Ablie murdering a shopkeeper in cold blood also drew in many complaints too.
You can tell from this early guest appearance that Carlyle was always going to be a big star.
He would later gain international attention for his role in Trainspotting as the sociopath Begbie. Sadly I have not seen the film yet so I can’t comment on Carlyle’s performance, but it was really this film and The Full Monty that helped him become a big star and many other high profile roles would follow such as Hitler in the brilliant Hitler Rise of Evil and the James Bond villain Renard before landing the regular role of Rumple on Once Upon A Time.
Whilst he has had a very long and successful career, I’d say about 80 percent of his most famous roles have all been villains. Whilst an actor of Carlyle’s talents should never be typecast at the same time its not hard to see why people keep giving him badguy parts as if you want a really violent villain who still has a lot of gravitas then Carlyle’s your guy.
Alice Harris/ 28 Weeks Later
Like I said the last thing you ever want is to be at the mercy of a Carlyle villain. He always kills people in the most horrible ways, whether that’s eating them alive, tearing their tongue out so they can’t scream and then beating them to death with a stick or best of all turning them into a snail and stepping on them!
However this might take the prize as his most gruesome murder. His wife Alice is revealed to have survived being left to die at the hands of the zombies, however little does she know she is infected, but in her case she hasn’t turned. Unfortunately when Carlyle kisses her he turns into a zombie and savagely kills her.
He bites her throat out, puts his fingers through her eyes, and batters her face to a pulp. I watch a lot of horror movies, but even I find this difficult to watch.
Another typical example of Glaswegian domestics.
Milah/ Once Upon a Time
Rumple’s ex wife Milah easily falls into the too stupid to live category. Her ex husband whom she already has a bad history with (calling him a coward when he avoids going to war to be with her and her son, leaving him for a pirate and humiliating him and making him the laughing stock of his village and hurting his only son by abandoning him to run off with the sexy pirate as Rumple has to tell him that she’s dead) now has the powers of a god and is insane. He also tends to take rejection rather badly. It is a sore spot for him after all having been rejected by everyone he’s ever loved in the most crushing ways possible.
So she’s decides to tell him that she never loved him further humiliating him in front of the man she ran off with. Thus not surprisingly it doesn’t end too well for her or her new lover.
Long may Robert Carlyle continue to bring misery and death to all of his enemies for our entertainment.
Christopher Eccleston/ Cracker
A truly shocking moment in the series. Eccleston said that he didn’t mind being killed off as it was great to be part of such a dramatic storyline and to work with Robert Carlyle.
9/ Michael Wincott
Topdollar (The Crow), Sir Guy of Gisborne, (Robin Hood Prince of Thieves), Captain Rochefort (The Three Musketeers), Armand Dorleac (The Count of Monte Cristo)
A very overlooked and talented character actor Wincott has been a villain in just about everything I have ever seen him in.
Certainly his most high profile and iconic roles tend to be villainous or at least unsympathetic. His gravely, harsh, deep voice alone makes him an ideal candidate for a villain.
His most famous role is as Topdollar in the iconic comic book movie The Crow.
The Crow has always one of my favourite films. It has a great story, and its cast was just perfect.
Brandon Lee was great as the romantic, tortured hero and really gave the role a lot of gravitas and pathos. Ernie Hudson meanwhile really brings the heart to the film as his character similar to his role in Ghostbusters is a normal decent man that helps to ground it somewhat. Wincott’s character Topdollar on the other hand is as vile as Lee is dashing and romantic.
Topdollar’s girlfriend is also his sister (or his father’s daughter as he puts it) and she enjoys cutting out people’s eyes and keeping them in ashtrays. His relationship with his sister doesn’t play a big role in the film, but its just a horrible little aspect the writers add that makes him seem even more loathsome.
There is nothing even remotely redeeming about Topdollar which makes him the perfect villain for the film as everything about it is so melodramatic, from its premise to its leading character. Thus Topdollar an evil child murdering, sadistic crime lord who stabs swords through his own servants necks whilst shagging his eye collecting sister is the perfect antagonist for the film.
My favourite moment of villainy is when he has Sarah a 13 year old girl hostage and Brandon Lee’s character Eric agrees to surrender as long as he lets her go, but Topdollar just throws her off a building anyway.
It kind of reminded me of when Mr Burns in the Simpsons has Bart hostage and Grandpa Simpson begs him not to hurt the boy saying the usual “do what you want to me just don’t hurt him” and Burns replies “I’d rather do both” and kicks him into a crate that falls into the ocean!
Whilst Topdollar is in my opinion one of cinema’s greatest villains sadly I think that Wincott is often wasted as merely the supporting villain. He has played other leading villains such as Michael Korda in Metro. Still The Crow aside in many of his best films such as Robin Hood, the Three Musketeers and Dead Man he is the supporting villain to Tim Curry, Alan Rickman and Lance Henrickson.
Still despite this he has had many roles in many popular movies and he has also done extensive voice work too and has supplied the voices for many video game villains including the Prophet of Truth in the Halo series.
Though he may sadly be overlooked I’d definitely rate him as one of my favourite villain actors and as Topdollar he is easily one of the most effective villains in film history.
Brandon Lee/ The Crow
Topdollar orders the death of Eric Draven and his wife Shelly. He has his thugs attack them in their own home where they torture and gang rape Shelly to death, and kill Eric by shooting him and throwing him from a building.
Of course Eric later returns from the grave to get revenge on Topdollar and his cronies. The Crow is kind of like a Leone Western in modern day with Brandon Lee’s ghostly Draven strumming his guitar being reminiscent of Charles Bronson quietly playing his Harmonica with both heroes under the peaceful harmonies burning with revenge for their loved ones.
Sadly Brandon Lee was killed during the making of this scene which naturally gives it an extra sense of tragedy and pathos.
Gideon/ The Crow
Gideon’s death is one of the first glimpses we get into how dangerous and just how brutal Topdollar is. Topdollar kills him for literally no reason at all by stabbing him in the throat with a samurai sword. When Gideon is literally choking on his own blood Topdollar spits out with venom”just fucking die” and blows his brains out.
Lt Sam Baffet
He is stabbed to death by Wincott’s character in a lift. Her death is what leads to the main character played by Eddie Murphy seeking revenge. I do like Eddie Murphy as a comedy actor but I think its safe to say his character isn’t as compelling as Brandon Lee’s in The Crow not that he is a comparable character mind you.
8/ Clancy Brown
The Kurgan ( Highlander), Lex Luthor (DCAU), Captain Byron Hadley (Shawshank Redemption), Mr Krabs (Spongebob Squarepants)
In a career spanning many decades and mediums Brown has played almost nothing but villains. He’s had a few non badguy parts such as in Star Trek and Cowboys vs Aliens but most of the time in live action or in animation Brown is the villain.
The role that really launched his career was as the loathsome Kurgan in the 1986 fantasy classic Highlander. Highlander revolves around a secret race of Immortals who fight with each other until only one remains. Immortals start out as ordinary humans until they die after which they return to life and are completely unkillable unless you slice their heads off. It is said that the last of the Immortals will win a power called the Prize which will allow him or her to decide the fate of mankind itself.
Brown’s character The Kurgan was in life a member of a tribe called the Kurgans who used to throw children to dogs for fun. The Kurgan killed all of the others so that he could simply be known as THE Kurgan.
The Kurgan would then continue to murder, rape and pillage his way through history. He had no real motivation other than to cause lots and lots of pain. It is said that if he wins the prize then he would use it to bring an eternity of torture and darkness to mankind
Whilst the character is pure evil what’s interesting and quite funny about him is the way the he is also in many ways just a little petty hoodlum. A lot of the dark comedic aspects of the character were apparently added by Brown himself which helped to give the villain a lot more personality.
The success of Highlander would lead to Brown being typecast somewhat as thuggish characters and he would later go on to play the vile bully Captain Hadley in the Shawshank Redemption.
It would be the role of Lex Luthor in Superman the Animated series that would help him break out of his typecasting problem.
Though Lex was another villain, he was worlds away from the thuggish and brutish Kurgan. Brown’s interpretation of the villain was akin to Telly Savalas as Blofeld. Charming, suave, well spoken, scheming and manipulative.
Superman the animated series was part of the DCAU and Brown would get a chance to reprise his role in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
Lex’s development across the DCAU has him go from just a corrupt business man to arguably the most dangerous villain in the entire universe when he merges with Brianiac.
Personally I think Brown was the definitive Luthor. Not only did his rich, smooth voice capture the intelligence and dignity of the villain better than anyone else in the role in either animation or live action, but I think much like Mark Hamill as the Joker he was able to capture various different sides to Lex’s personality. There have really been two different portrayals of Lex throughout the years in the comic books. Initially he was a supervillain who sought to conquer the earth and then the universe. He was a genius who could build giant robots, time machines, giant clone monsters, suits that could give him superpowers, death rays that could destroy cities, jet packs.
During the mid 80’s the character was reinvented as more of an evil business man who was a crime lord, but Superman could never lay a finger on him because he was so well connected and due to his wealth and status virtually untouchable.
Most other versions of him such as Gene Hackman’s portrayal and the version from Smallville stick to the evil business man model as its easier to make him seem more like a real person that way, though I prefer the evil genius version myself, it is more cartoony.
The DCAU rather cleverly managed to use both interpretations by having Lex start out as just a slimy business man who after his status as a crime lord was exposed grew to become a more dangerous criminal, also the presence of the Justice League causes him to up his game and after he merged with Brainiac his plans become cosmic. Brown excels at both the deceitful crime lord Luthor and the would be conqueror of the universe version.
Since Justice League came to an end Brown has gone to play Luthor in a number of other animated films and video games. He has played the role over a longer space of time than anyone else.
Brown has gone on to play a number of other cartoon villains over the years. In fact it would probably be easier to list cartoons where he hasn’t voiced a villain. Along with Tim Curry, David Warner and Mark Hamill he was one of the 4 voices of 90’s cartoon villainy as just about any big animated series from that decade was bound to have one of these guys as the baddie in it.
Still after Lex his most famous animated villain role is probably Mr Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants.
He has also had an extensive television career appearing in villainous roles in series such as Lost and the recent Flash live action series. By far his most famous television role was as the Demonic preacher Justin Crowe in the acclaimed mini series Carnivale.
Its doubtful that Brown will ever escape being seen as the villain, but that still hasn’t stopped him from enjoying a very varied and successful career. His most famous characters though all villainous could be more different from the thuggish Kurgan to the witty and urbane Lex to the comical, oafish Mr Krabs.
The Kurgan kills him after a protracted fight by slicing his head off. Connery at least remains defiant to the end and even spits in the Kurgan’s face. Still he dies on his knees after having already been run through with a sword and taunted by the Kurgan.
The Kurgan then goes on to rape Heather, Connor, Ramirez’s protege’s wife. The Kurgan believed that she was with Ramirez as he lied both to protect Connor and Heather (as the Kurgan would have most likely used her to lure Connor into a trap)
Heather never told Connor as she was too traumatised but he finds out many centuries later when the Kurgan gloats over Ramirez’s death.
Ramirez was an effete snob. He died on his knees. I took his head and raped his woman before his blood was cold. I see Ramirez lied she was your woman. And she never told you. I wonder why. Perhaps I gave her something you never could. And secretly she yearned for my return
What’s the most disturbing thing about this exchange is that its what he actually thinks!
I can’t not read “there can be only one!” in Clancy Brown’s big, deep, booming, scary voice in my head.
Gorilla Grodd/ Justice League Unlimited
Throughout the second half of the final series of Justice League Unlimited Lex keeps Grodd voiced by Powers Boothe in a cage where he experiments on him, tortures him, demeans him and feed’s him nothing but banana’s which he hates.
Grodd later manages to escape and faces Lex in one on one combat. He naturally bests Lex but when he tries to use his mind control powers to make Lex bow to him, Lex manages to reverse it and takes control of Grodd. After making Grodd admit that Lex is superior (which is absolute torture for Grodd). He then forces Grodd into an air lock and ejects him into space.
I always loved this last little exchange between Lex and Grodd.
Don’t feel bad Grodd it could have gone either way.
It really could’ve couldn’t it.
No of course not but why speak ill of the dead.
Juliet Landau/ Justice League Unlimited
Landau voices Talia, Lex’s lover whom he regularly physically and mentally abuses. Things get so bad that she is the one who eventually frees Grodd which turns out badly for her when Lex decides to use her to bring Brainiac back after Grodd is defeated in an experiment which kills her in a very slow and painful way.
To be fair though it is revealed that Lex would have used her in his experiments nyway. That’s just the kind of guy he is and thus itf anything betraying him was her only chance at survival.
7/ David Warner
Ra’s Al Ghul (DCAU), Gul Madred (Star Trek The Next Generation), Captain James Sawyer (Hornblower), MCP (Tron)
Throughout his long and extensive career Warner has played everyone from Hamlet to Van Helsing to the Frankenstein’s Monster to Jack the Ripper to The Doctor.
He has had many high profile non villainous roles in films such as The Omen, Straw Dogs, Scream 2 and Star Trek 6 The Undiscovered Country, but overall the bulk of his career has been spent playing the cultured, evil Brit.
He has never been associated with just one villainous role like a number of other actors on this list and as his career is long it would take a whole separate article to cover it then I am just going to run through my favourite badguy roles of his here.
Warner is one of the main 4 voices of 90’s cartoon villainy. Watch any American cartoon series from that decade and chances are either he, Clancy Brown, Mark Hamill or Tim Curry will be a villain in one of them. Tim Curry will normally be the ridiculously flamboyant villain, Brown will often be either the criminal mastermind or the barbarian. Hamill will be the completely insane villain and finally Warner will be the more cultured and sophisticated, posh villain
Warner actually was probably in more 90’s cartoons than anyone else. He was the evil Archmage in Gargoyles, Talon in Mighty Max, the rouge agent Alpha in Men in Black, and Doctor Herbert Landon in Spider-Man the Animated Series. Landon was the main villain in the crossover episode between Spider-Man and X-Men the animated series who planned to exterminate all mutants (similar to Strikers plan in X-Men 2).
By far his most famous animated role was as Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman the Animated Series. In the comic books Ghul was one of Batman’s major adversary’s. In fact some fans even consider him to be Batman’s archenemy above the Joker himself! In the animated series Batman refers to him as more dangerous than the Joker and Lex Luthor combined.
Ghul was an immortal who had kept himself young through the magical Lazarus pits. His ultimate goal was to create a world free of crime, though in order to do this he felt he would need to kill off most of its population and start a new world from its ashes (with him as its ruler)
He was Batman’s equal in every respect in terms of intellect (he was able to figure out Batman’s secret identity all by himself) and physical prowess too.
The animated series which marked his first appearance outside of the comic books did him justice. Like his comic book counterpart he was by far and away the most powerful of all of Batman’s enemies with his plans threatening the world, not just Gotham. Warner was also the perfect casting as he was great at capturing both the icey charm and psychotic fanaticism of the villain.
No one knows how to deliver a supervillain monologue like David Warner.
Whilst many other actors have gone on to play Ghul throughout the years such as Jason Issacs and Liam Niesson in the Nolan Trilogy, Warner to me is still the definitive portrayal.
Warner would go on to reprise the role of Ghul in other DCAU shows such as Superman the animated series where the villain tried to drain Superman’s life force and steal his powers and Batman Beyond.
Among Warners more notable live action villainous roles include in films such as the horror anthology movie From Beyond The Grave where he plays a man driven to insanity by a Demon who then goes on to be a serial killer before actually becoming a Demon himself.
He also played three antagonistic roles in the sci fi classic Tron. Ed Dillinger the sleazy vice president of ENCOM who steals his employee’s work and passes it off as his own, and the main villains in the virtual world MCP and Sark, though he is uncredited for MCP.
He also played the demented James Sawyer in Hornblower, Evil the main antagonist in Terry Gilliams surrealist classic Time Bandits and the main villain Doctor Erasmus Pea in The League of Gentlemen film.
My favourite live action role of his however was as the Cardassian torturer in a two part episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where he acted opposite his old friend Patrick Stewart. This story called Chain of Command drew inspiration from George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 as it saw Warner’s character attempt to break Captain Picard through torture to the point where he will have no free will left. This is best exemplified by a scene taken almost straight out of 1984 where Warner’s character attempts to convince Picard that there are 5 lights when there are only 4 just because he says so. He doesn’t just want Picard to say that there are 5 to avoid torture, he wants it to get to the point where he will actually think that there are 5 if he says so. Warner’s calm, eerie delivery of “how many lights are there” before torturing Picard is truly chilling.
Warner has been a part of so many major sci fi and fantasy franchises from Doctor Who to Star Trek to The Outer Limits to Sapphire and Steel. Ironically in real life he doesn’t much care for the genre, but nevertheless he will always be one of its most acclaimed actors and finest villains.
Patrick Stewart/ Star Trek the Next Generation
Warner’s character Madred tortures Picard brutally for the entire episode in an effort to break his will. What is most disturbing is the way that at first Warner’s characters job is simply to torture him for information but as time goes on it becomes more personal as clearly Picard is the only person he has never managed to break and thus when he is told to release him he tries one last time to break him.
Though Picard remains defiant here he later admits that not only would he have said that there were 5 lights to have avoided more torture but that he actually did see 5 lights, showing that he had been broken and Madred had won after all.
Talia Ghul/ Batman Beyond
In this sequel series to Batman the Animated Series it is revealed that Ra’s Al Ghul managed to cheat death yet again by transplanting his mind into her body effectively killing her. I felt this brought a whole new dimension to Ra’s villainy as before as evil as he was you did always believe that he did genuinely love his daughter but here we see how he was willing to sacrifice her life as much as anyone else’s for his own plans.
Charlton’s victims/ From Beyond the Grave
In this anthology film Warner plays a man named Charlton who is driven to murder by a spectre in his mirror who says that the more people he kills the stronger it gets. At the end of the story however after the Spectre is strong enough he kills Charlton who then takes his place in the mirror and as hinted in the last few moments will drive another man to be a monster showing that it is an endless cycle.
6/ Rutger Hauer
Roy Batty (Bladerunner), John Ryder (The Hitcher), Cardinal Rourke (Sin City), Lothos (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
For his role in Bladerunner alone Rutger Hauer is a true genre and cinema icon.
With his striking harsh looks powerful voice and commanding presence Hauer is a gift to any production he graces.
Sadly I think he has often been wasted in recent years of his career. In films such as Sin City and Batman Begins he’s cast in more minor villain roles. I think that happens to a lot of great villain actors as they get older. People think they can no longer be quite as menacing as when they were younger, but they will still want to cash in on their existing fame so they’ll just have them play a more minor character to give them some personality at least.
Some actors are able to escape this such as Christopher Lee as Saruman, but sadly I think Hauer has been somewhat wasted n the last few years of his career.
Still the big villainous roles that he has had in the past in classics such as Bladerunner and The Hitcher have truly given him a chance to shine and cement his status as one of cinema’s most engaging, charismatic and frightening villans.
His best performance was definitely as the main villain in Bladerunner Roy Batty, where he completely stole the show from Harrison Ford.
Batty was in some ways the more sympathetic character as ultimately all he wanted was more life, though he was still willing to kill other people and replicants just to save his own skin.Still ultimately in many ways Deckard could be seen as the villain of the piece.
By far and away his crowning moment however is his final confrontation with Deckard where he in an ironic twist saves the man who has been trying to shut him down and delivers a truly moving speech about the nature of mortality and how everything we are, everything we have accomplished can just vanish in the blink of an eye. Its a wonderful irony that a speech that sums up the bleakness of human existence yet at the same time all that is wonderful about it. Even in the short space of time that he lived Batty was still able to see and do many wonderful things showing that its not how long you live but what you do with it, hence why some people can accomplish more in 20 years than others in 80, yet at the same time in some ways its all irelevent as it all regardless of how spectacular and beautiful it may seem vanishes like smoke in the wind.
According to Hauer the real reason Batty saved Deckard was to show him what a real man is and in some ways through him leave his mark on creation.
Hauer actually rewrote the speech himself at the last minute. Originally the speech went like this.
I have known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been off world and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion. I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it… felt it!
Hauer changed it just before filming and in his own words “put a knife into it”.
Imagine being Harrison Ford during the filming of this scene. You’d know that right there Rutger Hauer had stolen the film from you. In decades to come people would always think of this as a Rutger Hauer film instead of a Harrison Ford film.
In contrast to the sympathetic and thoughtful Batty one of Hauer’s other most famous roles was as the complete monster John Ryder in The Hitcher.
Ryder is a serial killer who slaughters dozens of people in the most brutal ways from burning them to cutting them up to strapping them to two cars and ripping them in half. His victims include police men, women and children. He is an absolute savage and Hauer is truly terrifying in the role which was actually a very difficult character to bring to life.
Ryder does stretch credibility a bit that this one man can take down multiple police stations. He’s almost like the Terminator the way he is able to kill so many heavily armed people with ease, but Hauer manages to make it seem plausible as he is just so menacing and relentlessly evil you can believe he would be capable of bring a heavily armed squad of policemen to their knees.
Another notable performance of his was as Lothos the Vampire King in the movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now this movie famously was a lot more light hearted than the later classic television series that followed many years later.
When you read Joss’s original script then you can see it would have been a much better film than the finished result which was heavily edited by Fran Rubel Kuzui and made more comedic. In Joss’s original script Lothos was a brutal, savage, terrifying monster and I would have loved to have seen how Hauer would have played this version of the character.
As it is whilst the finished film is not bad its not hard to see why Joss Whedon was so unhappy with it. Though maybe this was for the best as it was partly Joss’s displeasure with the film that caused him to produce the later tv series that was closer to his original vision. If the film had gone the way he wanted then he might not have been tempted to revisit it again. Whilst the film like his original script would have been brilliant I much prefer the tv series and its spinoff Angel.
Hauer’s performance has often come under some heavy criticism for not being scary enough, but again the character was not meant to be scary in this version. I think the character of Lothos demonstrated that Hauer was quite good at comedy too as he was genuinely funny as Lothos. Indeed he and his manservant Amilyn played by Paul Reubens are the most entertaining things in the film by far.
Over the years Hauer has also done a lot of prominent tv work too including as The evil Huntsman in The 10th Kingdom and as Morgan Edge in Smallville. Though he has often been delegated to smaller roles sadly in many mainstream films the fact that he has often been willing to appear in more offbeat, edgy films such as Bladerunner has allowed him to play many colourful and interesting villains.
Doctor Eldon Tyrell/ Bladerunner
The creator of the Replicants in a classic Frankenstein moment is killed by Roy Batty in a very, very gruesome way. He sticks his thumbs through his eyes and twists his entire head round! I guess Roy didn’t take just being told to accept his fate for Doctor Tyrell very well.
Donald Sutherland/ Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Sutherlands character Merrick is killed when trying to defend Buffy in the film. He tries to stake Lothos only for Lothos to ram the stake back into Merrick’s heart. This was different to Whedon’s original script when Lothos planned to turn him into a Vampire and Merrick shot himself instead. Apparently Donald Sutherland rewrote massive sections of the script which caused a falling out between he and Whedon on set.
Nash/ The Hitcher
One of the most gruesome kills on the whole list. Ryder kills Nash by tying her to two trucks and has her literally pulled apart.
He’s as violent as Robert Carlyle!
5/ Boris Karloff
Frankenstein’s Monster (Universal Frankenstein Monster series), Imohtep (The Mummy), Hjalmer Poelzig (The Black Cat), John Gray (The Bodysnatcher)
A true horror icon, Boris Karloff is best remembered for playing the Frankenstein’s Monster in the original Universal Frankenstein film.
The image we have of the Frankenstein monster as a 7 foot tall, green skinned, lumbering, dumb creature with a flat top head and bolts through its neck in popular culture stems entirely from Karloff’s portrayal.
In the novel the creature does not look like this and it is actually a highly intelligent and sophisticated creature who is rejected entirely for its appearance.
Prior to appearing in Frankenstein Karloff had been in 40 films, but it would be his 41st film that would secure him a place in Cinema history forever. Karloff was absolutely terrifying as the monster. When he corners his creator, Henry Frankenstein in the windmill and throws him to his apparent death he is truly savage, yet at other moments in the film he also brings a certain child like quality to the beast such as when he is reaching for the light which allows the viewer to pity him as in some ways he doesn’t know what he is doing.
In the infamous scene where he kills the little girl by throwing her into a lake we can see that the Monster clearly didn’t know what it was doing and thought it was just playing with her by the absolute look of horror on its face when she doesn’t resurface.
In this respect Karloff’s Monster is in some ways more sympathetic than the version in the novel. Both are sympathetic characters as ultimately both were brought into a world where they would never have been accepted, but Karloff’s child like Monster seems even more vulnerable and is not as accountable for his most deplorable actions such as murdering a child as he genuinely doesn’t know what he is doing whilst at the same time he is arguably more frightening as when he is angry he does feel like he is beyond reason.
I think part of the reason Karloff was such a great choice for the role was because he could somewhat relate to the character who was a complete outcast.
Karloff was of Indian descent and was often bullied at school for his dark, swarthy looks. His upbringing was hard and thus I think he brought this pain to the role and to later characters such as Imhotep too.
Karloff went on to reprise the role of the monster in two sequels, The Bride of Frankenstein and The Son of Frankenstein. In Bride the monster was shown to acquire the power of speech and become more intelligent like its literary counterpart. However what’s interesting is that at the end of the film the beast in contrast to the version from the novel who seeks to destroy everything its creator holds dear actually makes peace with its creator and turns on the evil Doctor Pistoreous allowing Henry Frankenstein and his wife to escape whilst declaring memorably “WE BELONG DEAD” about itself, Pistoerous and its screaming bride.
Opinion is often divided as to whether his performance was superior in this film or the first. On the one hand its the first film that’s really embedded itself into popular culture, whilst in the second he does get more to do as the monster gets a chance to interact with more characters properly such as Doctor Pistorious and the moving sequences with the Hermit.
Personally I’d say that the fist film was his best performance as that was the film where he really managed to create a true cinema icon.
Whilst all 3 of Karloff’s Frankenstein films were big successes and are still regarded as classics he decided to stop playing the role after Son as he felt the character was running out of steam.
He did reprise it fleetingly three more times, in a celebrity Baseball match, in a film called Frankenstein 1970 where he plays Professor Frankenstein who is shown at the end of the movie to have given the monster his face and an episode of a 60’s television series Route 66 where he plays himself playing the monster in a special guest appearance. Thus he played the role 6 times in total.
His success as the Frankenstein monster led to similar misunderstood, lumbering monster roles in other horror films. He played the mute servant in The Old Dark House made by Frankenstein director James Whale and the love struck Imohtep in the original version of The Mummy as well as Bateman who is horribly disfigured by Bela Lugosi’s villainous Doctor Volin and forced to carry out his evil bidding.
He did get a chance to play many completely unsympathetic villains too however such as Fu Manchu, and Hjalmar Poelzig from The Black Cat, a sadistic, brutal, necrophiliac, Satan worshipper, and the grave robbing John Gray in The Bodysnatcher.
He enjoyed a constantly strong career right until his death with one of his most famous roles as the voice of the Grinch in the Doctor Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Karloff was one of the true kings of horror and though he had a very large body of work, he will always be the Frankenstein’s Monster. Even those who don’t know the name Boris Karloff will still recognise his image whenever they see a Frankenstein mask based on his performance.
Bela Lugosi /The Bodysnatcher
Karloff kills him in this film by smothering him to death with his hands. Lugosi’s character was not the most sympathetic victim. He had tried to blackmail Karloff’s character earlier. In retrospect he wasn’t the smartest victim either. Meeting with the lunatic who kills people in secret in a dark alley and then telling him you know everything he is doing and will tell everyone unless he gives you money. It was inevitable how it was going to end.
Little Maria/ Frankenstein
In one of the most famous scenes from the film the Monster befriends a little girl who is not scared by its appearance but tragically ends up killing here when after being amused by her tossing flowers in the water that float, tosses her into the water where she drowns.
What’s interesting about this scene is that in some versions it was cut as people felt it was too disturbing. The cut version however was far more frightening. It cut just as the monster was reaching for her with a smile on its face and then the next shot is of her father carrying her corpse through the street.
This ironically created far more sinister implications that the monster had just killed her for its own amusement and left out the fact that it was an accident and that after it realised what it had done the monster was overwhelmed with grief and ran away.
Dwight Frye/ Frankenstein
Dwight Frye’s character Fritz is killed by the monster when it literally hangs him from the ceiling. To be fair he had been torturing the monster earlier with a torch so he kind of brought it on himself.
Karloff actually kills Frye in the sequel too by throwing him off a building. A deleted scene revealed that Frye’s character had in fact killed a young woman and framed the monster for it earlier and thus he was once again an asshole victim.
4/ Bela Lugosi
Dracula (Universal Dracula Film Series), Iygor (Frankenstein Film Series), Doctor Richard Vollin (The Raven), Doctor Mirakle (Murders in the Rue Morgue)
Bela Lugosi has always been a big favourite of mine. Few actors had as large and as engaging a personality on screen as Lugosi.
Bela Lugosi is best remembered for playing Dracula in the 1931 version of Stokers novel produced by Universal studio’s.
Lugosi’s Dracula created the image for the character in popular culture. In Stokers novel Dracula started out as a hideous old man who grew younger the more blood he drank. He also had long white hair, a white moustache, a thick white beard and he speaks perfect English. He also does not wear a cape or a Penguin suit either.
The image of Dracula with a black widow’s peak hair cut, a long black flowing cape, a thick Hungarian accent, a pale face and also being somewhat alluring to his female victims comes entirely from Bela Lugosi’s portrayal.
Much like with Karloff as the Frankenstein’s monster then you will recognise Lugosi as Dracula even if you have never even heard of him. Whenever you see a Halloween mask of Dracula with a black widows peak or a picture of him with a long flowing cape, that’s Lugosi you are looking at not Stoker’s Dracula. Lugosi is as much Dracula as Karloff is Frankenstein’s monster.
Though it is worth mentioning that not everything that we think of as Dracula comes from Lugosi. His version of the character for instance did not have fangs and he was also not romantic either. He didn’t even seduce his victims or have any kind of attraction to them. Though despite this Lugosi became something of a sex symbol due to the dark charisma of his Dracula. Not long after the films release despite almost being in his 50’s Lugosi received more fan mail from young women than Clark Gable!
Still it would be wrong to say that everything that we think of as Dracula comes solely from Lugosi, but he did create the image of Dracula overall and there are traces of his performance in every single Dracula that came after. He also set the template not just for Dracula but for Vampires in general to be seen as more alluring and captivating creatures in popular culture.
Lugosi would go on to reprise the role two more times on the big screen. The Return of the Vampire and Abbott in Costello Meet Frankenstein. In Return of the Vampire his character is only hinted to be Dracula in disguise, but he is still an evil Vampire count regardless.
He also reprised the role on stage many times afterwards too, having played it on stage earlier.
The role typecast Lugosi terribly for the rest of his career. He would almost always play the villain or a monster.
Contrary to popular belief after Dracula he did not only star in low rent B-Movies. He appeared in many other classic horror movies throughout his career such as White Zombie, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Wolfman and The Island of Doctor Moreau.
He also appeared opposite Boris Karloff in many classic horror movies too such as The Black Cat and The Raven. Though they were often cast as mortal enemies in real life the two actors were quite good friends. They weren’t as close as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and they drifted apart in the later years of their career, but they had a very positive working experience and relationship.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
What was interesting about their collaborations was that Karloff always got top billing, yet at the same time Lugosi often got the larger role. He is the man hero in The Black Cat, whilst in The Raven he s the main villain and Karloff is the supporting antagonist, almost sidekick of Lugosi. Even in Son of Frankenstein where Karloff is in his most famous role as the Monster Lugosi still gets more screen time than Karloff.
I will say that part of the reason I was always a bigger Lugosi fan than a Karloff fan was because in their movies together Lugosi was always the more captivating presence. Even taking into account the fact that he had a bigger role, whenever they shared the screen it was Lugosi that would hold my attention. In The Body Snatcher one of the few times that Lugosi did have a smaller role than Karloff I think he still holds his own.
Lugosi’s greatest moment after Dracula was in Son of Frankenstein where he played Iygor. Iygor would go on to become a classic horror movie character in his own right. I think Iygor also demonstrated that Lugosi had a wider range than people gave him credit for. Though Iygor was another villain, he was the antithesis to Dracula in that he was a repulsive outcast, rejected by society much like the Monster his only friend as opposed to the charismatic alluring Dracula. When you look at Iygor you wouldn’t even think that it was the same guy who played Dracula.
Lugosi would go on to reprise the role of Iygor in Ghost of Frankenstein and technically Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. At the end of Ghost of Frankenstein Iygors brain is placed into the body of the monster and so in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman Lugosi plays the monster.
Sadly his performance as the monster was heavily edited. Originally he spoke as the monster and played it as Iygor in the beasts body. I would have loved to have seen this performance as I think it would have been an interesting new take on the monster. Karloff’s monster was an innocent childlike creature that didn’t really know what it was doing where as Lugosi’s with Iygor’s brain in its body would have been more intelligent, but unlike Shelly’s thoughtful creature it would have been truly malicious.
Sadly all of this is cut from the film, though there is one tiny moment left in the film where the weakened monsters strength is restored and we see a little smile on its face. I always loved this scene as here we could see the glee Iygor must have felt at the prospect of being able to use the Monsters strength for his own ends. In that one moment the monster is a true monster through and through!
Sadly towards the end of the 40’s Lugosi’s career began to decline and it would never really recover. In the last few years of his life Lugosi was forced to work with Ed Wood Jr the worst film director of all time.
There were two reasons Lugosi’s career failed. One was the declining interest in horror movies. Lugosi more so than an other actor was typecast in the horror genre. The real tragic irony about his death was that he died just before there was a major revival in the horror genre’s popularity. I think he was more typecast because he unlike Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr resembled his most famous role more. Karloff and Chaney Jr as Frankenstein and the Wolfman were both under heavy make up after all, also Lugosi’s own accent was part of his Dracula image too.
The other reason was because of his drug addiction which sadly made him a pariah among studio executives. Its sad what became of him but through his role as Dracula he will be remembered forever.
Dwight Frye/ Dracula
Frye plays Renfield who suffers a truly gruesome fate at the hands of Dracula. First the Vampire king drives him insane and makes him his servant. He forces Renfield to help him travel to London and carry out his killings. Later when Renfield accidently leads his enemies to Dracula the Vampire kills him by sapping his neck and throwing him down the stairs.
In many ways Renfield is the most tragic character in the film. He is a completely innocent man who is tormented and enslaved by Dracula to the point where he becomes a mere shell of his former self. He dies on his knees, screaming and begging.
Alice Cooper wrote a song about the fate of Frye’s character called “The Ballad of Dwight Frye” which tells of Reinfelds descent into madness, his attempts to escape Dracula’s influence, his incarceration in an insane asylum and also expands on his character by revealing that he has a wife and a daughter who miss him after Dracula drives him mad.
Boris Karloff/ The Black Cat
Bela’s the fella and Borry is gonna be sorry.
Okay this was when Lugosi was the good guy but I couldn’t not mention this as its just too memorable a kill. To be fair Lugosi’s character is an anti hero in this film anyway. He was in fact meant to be a villain until a last minute change in the script.
Lugosi’s character Verdegast gets his revenge on Karloff’s character Poelzig (who murdered both his wife and daughter in his satanic killings.) By chaining him up and skinning him alive! Thankfully we only see the shadow and Karloff’s hands writhing in the chains as he screams in agony and begs Lugosi to stop whilst Lugosi declares with relish “how does it feel to hang on your own embalming rack Hjalmer”
Still even though we don’t see it it has to be the most gruesome death in the whole Universal horror cycle.
Lon Chaney Jr/ The Wolfman
Lugosi’s character simply called Bela bites Lon Chaney Jr’s character Larry Talbot and infects him with the curse of lycanthropy. Though Talbot beats Bela as a wolf to death with a silver cane, he is still cursed to become a monster on the night of the full moon for the rest of his life. As James Rolfe himself pointed out Bela wanted to die so technically he won here as he got what he wanted whilst Talbot remains cursed.
3/ Vincent Price
Prince Prospero (The Masque of the Red Death), Edward Lionheart (Theatre of Blood), Matthew Hopkins (The Witchfinder General), Doctor Phibes (Doctor Phibes film series)
The true master of horror in my opinion. Vincent Price began his career as a horror star in old black and white films such as The Invisible Man Returns, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Tower of London. In these early horror roles he was often the good guy or the hapless oaf.
It wasn’t really until the 1953 film House of Wax that he would become known for playing flamboyant lunatics. In House of Wax, Price plays a character called Henry Jarrod who after being disfigured in a fire goes completely insane and starts murdering people and coating their corpses in wax so that he can add their corpses to his collection of sculpture’s. At the end of the movie he is killed when he is submerged in a pool of his own molten wax.
Price would go on to play other similar characters, psychopathic mass murderers who kill people in ridiculously over the top ways in many classic campy horror films.
In The Abominable Doctor Phibes Price’s character murders the surgeons who failed to save his wife in hilariously gruesome ways including feeding them to insects, draining all of their blood into bottles and burning them with acid.
In Theatre of Blood he plays an awful Shakesperian actor named Edward Lionheart who after receiving appalling reviews begins murdering his critics in methods inspired by the works of Shakespeare. He has his victims bodies dragged through the streets by horses, drowns them in wine, decapitates them whilst they are asleep and leaves their severed head next to their wife in bed, he even feeds one of them his own dogs!
My favourite moment in the film is when he gives one critics wife a massage that’s so relaxing it causes her to make sex noises and so her husband thinking she is having an affair smothers her to death with a pillow! Its just such an absurd scene that it almost takes the film into outright comedy, yet at the same time when the critic does murder his wife it manages to pull back and be quite dark again. Its the perfect balance of comedy and genuine horror.
These movies were practically a whole subgenre on their own but they could have only worked with Price. Only Price had the necessary showmanship and charisma to make characters like Lionheart and Phibes work.
On the one hand he was able to make what were quite silly characters seem genuinely frightening and even at times sympathetic as Price often brought a gravitas to these characters too by portraying the likes of Phibes and Lionheart as genuinely disturbed and tormented men rather than just as out and out monsters.
At the same time his flamboyant style and excellent comic timing help to offset some of the darker elements of these characters. Edward Lionheart is quite hardcore even by horror movie villain standards. He tries to kill a guy by stabbing him through the eyes with two burning hot knives. Yet Price manages to make him quite likable by injecting plenty of humour and camp into the character which helps to lighten some of the darker elements of the character.
He finds the perfect balance between the menace and the comedy and the camp and grizzly elements and thus manages to make the likes of Phibes and Lionheart characters that are simply fascinating to watch.
Price didn’t just play campy villains. He brought many darker and more menacing characters to life such as Matthew Hopkins in The Witchfinder General. He also starred in a number of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe which were all directed by Roger Corman such as The Masque of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendlum.
My own personal favourite is The Fall of the House of Usher. Price plays a more conflicted villain called Roderick Usher. Roderick plans to kill both himself and his sister in order to prevent the Usher line from continuing. The Usher family tree is made up of nothing but murderers and rapists. The scene where Roderick describes the crimes of his forebears as well as the horrifying fates that befell them all never fails to send shivers up my spine. Roderick believes that there is a great evil in their blood and that the Usher family cannot be allowed to continue.
Its never revealed if there is some supernatural element in the Usher family tree or not, but Roderick nevertheless ends up driving his sister insane when he buries her alive and she later kills him after managing to crawl out of her coffin. Though Roderick’s actions are deplorable its interesting the way at no point does he view himself as a villain, calmly telling her fiance that he has no idea what horrors Roderick has spared the world by ending the Usher family tree and later even as his own crazed sister chokes him to death he says “there was simply no other way.”
Whilst The Fall of Usher is my favourite Poe/Price/Corman film The Masque of the Red Death is probably the most famous of the series.
Price’s character in this film, Prince Prospero in contrast to Roderick Usher is fully aware of how evil he is and positively relishes in it. At the end of the film he is ultimately killed by Death himself (also played by Price). I always loved Death’s final line to Propsero.
Why should you be afraid to die. Your soul has been dead for a long time”
In the later years of his career Price probably became best known for providing the narration to Michael Jacksons Magnus Opus, Thriller. Price’s sensational delivery of lines such as “no mere mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller!” is without doubt one of the most celebrated aspects of the classic song.
Whilst most of his career was spent playing villains Price did have a few good guy roles in films such as The Raven and The Fly, but ultimately he will always be remembered as one of cinema’s most outrageous villains
Terry Thomas/ The Abominable Doctor Phibes
One of Phibes first victims, Phibes kills him by strapping him to a chair and then drains all of his blood from his body into bottles. The only thing I didn’t like about this scene was that it killed off Terry Thomas too early into the film.
Barbara Steele/ The Pit and the Pendulum
After her character Elizabeth drives Vincent Price’s character insane he gets revenge by brutally torturing her. At the end of the film the survivor’s of Price’s characters rampage leave his torture chamber vowing that no one will ever enter again. Little do they know Elizabeth is still alive, sealed in the Iron Maiden and unable to call for help as her tongue has been ripped out.
Coral Browne/ Theatre of Blood
In one of the most hilarious scenes from Theatre of Blood, Edward Lionheart kills Coral’s character Chloe Moon by posing as her camp hair dresser Butch and then attaching electrobes to her head which he uses to fry her alive.
Ironically after making this film Price and Browne would later marry and were together for the rest of their lives. Its an odd way for a couple to meet. One burning the other to death whilst quoting Shakespeare.
2/ Tim Curry
Doctor Frank N Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Darkness (Legend), Pennywise the Dancing Clown (It), Hexxus (Ferngully The Last Rainforest)
One of my favourite actors, Tim Curry is a truly larger than life presence who dominates anything he is in.
Nearly all of his most famous roles are as villains and the few that aren’t still tend to often be jerks or unlikable people such as the prissy Mr Hector in Home Alone 2 or Professor Oldman in Scary Movie 2. Oldman isn’t a villain per se, but he is still a sleazy, perverted lech.
Curry first rose to prominence as Doctor Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Frank N Furter was an absolutely outrageous character. A cross dressing alien that killed and ate people and slept with both the male and female main protagonists. Frank N Furter was a complete monster, a sex god, a rock star and threatened your sexuality if you were a straight man all at the same time.
Even if Curry had never done anything else after Frank N Furter that character alone would be enough to earn him a place in cinema history. Of course he would later go on to play many more weird and wonderful roles throughout his career. Indeed I’d say that he is as well known for his later roles such as Pennywise, and Wadsworth the Butler in Clue as he is for Frank N Furter despite the enduring popularity of Rocky Horror which truly has a cult following like almost no other film.
It is still in a limited release after 41 years giving it the longest run of any film in cinema history.
Curry played Darkness the main villain in Ridley Scott’s 80’s fantasy classic Legend. Darkness is without a doubt the best depiction of Satan in the history of film in my opinion.
Standing 8 feet tall with his bright red skin, massive horns and deep booming voice, Darkness is an absolutely spectacular sight. Ridley Scott cast Curry in the role because he felt (based on his performance as Frank N Furter which he had described as “a very brave thing to do”) that only Curry would have had the charisma and presence to bring such a flamboyant character to life.
The combination of the excellent make up and Curry’s magnificent performance almost makes Darkness seem like a work of art.
Another one of Curry’s most famous films Clue saw him play the main villain though only in the third ending. Clue is based on the famous board game of the same name and thus it’s 3 different endings were meant to reflect the completely random nature of the game where anyone can be the killer. In the first two endings of Clue, Curry’s character Wadsworth is the main hero who figures out the identity of the killer and catches them. In the third however it is revealed in a surprise twist that Wadsworth was the true criminal mastermind who orchestrated all of the murders from behind the scenes.
I was actually upset when I first watched the third ending as I liked Wadsworth so much I didn’t want him to be the badguy. Still the evil Wadsworth is an interesting performance of Curry’s as its more subdued than his usual flamboyant villains.
Personally I’d rate Clue as Curry’s finest hour even above the Rocky Horror Picture show. With Wadsworth he is able through the films multiple endings to create a character who is an incredibly likable charismatic, underdog of a hero and a ruthless, scheming, suave, vile villain.
As a villain and a hero he simply dominates the film which is no mean feat as its cast is made up of comic royalty including Madeline Khan, Christopher Lloyd and Michael Mckean. I’d definitely rate Clue as one of my favourite films and it was this film that made me a fan of Tim Curry for life.
By far and away Curry’s most genuinely terrifying villain is Pennywise from the classic Stephen King miniseries IT.
Pennywise is an alien from another universe that resurfaces every 30 years in the town of Derry to prey on the local children. It can take on any form it wants but it often assumes the form of a clown to lure children in.
Pennywise enjoys eating his victims when they are scared and thus it will often torment them for hours, even days before killing them by conjuring up illusions of or taking the form of their worst fears which can include anything from abusive parents to School bullies to simply characters from horror movies that scare them.
Pennywise is often regarded as one of the greatest horror movie villains of all time. Most top 10 scariest horror movie villain lists will have him in them.
Throughout the 90’s Curry would go on to play many more high profile villains in various films and television series such as Long John Silver in Muppets Treasure Island, Cardinal Richelliu in The Three Musketeers, a family of serial killers in Tales From the Crypt and Gaal in Earth 2. He also lent his voice to many cartoon baddies throughout this decade.
He became one of the 4 voices of 90’s Cartoon villainy. Almost every American adventure cartoon from this decade has either Curry or David Warner or Clancy Brown or Mark Hamill as a villain. Among Curry’s most notable cartoon villains include Hexxus an ancient sludge demon that seeks to destroy all life on earth in the animated classic film Fengully The Last Rainfoest, Skullmaster the main villain in Mighty Max, Doctor Petorious the main villain in The Mask animated series and Captain Hook in Peter Pan the animated series.
Lets hope he continues to entertain us with more colourful villains for years to come. I remember reading someone say online once that whilst it will be a sad day when Curry leaves us at the same time his obituary will be unlike anyone else’s as it will be full of cross dressing, flesh eating, sex crazed aliens, giant horned Demons, evil alien, child eating clowns, Butlers who are really either FBI agents or criminal masterminds, singing pirates, and more cartoon villains than is seemingly possible.
Tim Curry is a one man festival of conviviality, a devilshly lovable rogue, a sex god, a rock star and sheer joy in human form.
Meatloaf/ Rocky Horror Picture Show
Meatloaf plays Eddie, Frank N Furter’s gimp and sex slave who later upstages him after he has unveiled Rocky. Naturally Frank being the prickly sort doesn’t take kindly to someone taking ll of the attention away from him and hacks Eddie to death with a pick axe and later not only eats him but feeds his sliced remains to his other guests too.
You should never ever try and upstage Tim Curry. Not that its physically possible to upstage Tim Curry, but you should never try anyway.
Poor, sweet, innocent little Georgie is lured to his death by Pennywise. We don’t actually see Pennywise kill him though the build up is disturbing enough) but we find out later that Pennywise actually pulled his arm off and then ate him alive.
A very nasty way to go, but considering Pennywise normally extends his victims suffering for hours even days on end Georgie might have actually got off lucky all things considered.
Its not hard to see why so many people trace their fear of clowns to this film.
Crysta/ Ferngully The Last Rainforest
Hexxus eats her alive, though she does manage to escape later. Tim Curry seems to eat people a lot in movies.
1/ Christopher Lee
Frankenstein’s Creature (The Curse of Frankenstein), Dracula (Hammer Dracula series) The Mummy (The Mummy), Fu Manchu (various films), Lord Summerlie (The Wicker Man), Saruman (The Lord of the Rings), Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
Number 1 on this list had to be Christopher Lee. Not only is he one of the greatest villains anyway but technically he has played more villains than any other actor. Christopher Lee was in over 300 films, literally more than any other actor and roughly 75 percent of his roles were said to be villainous.
Thus no one has been a badguy as often as Christopher Lee. He is the true prince of darkness.
Lee’s first big break was as the Frankenstein’s creature in The Curse of Frankenstein released in 1957.
Though this film really belonged to Cushing who played the Professor Lee was still excellent as the monster.
The brain for this creature had belonged to a highly intelligent and sophisticated man who Professor Frankenstein had actually murdered in order to use his brain. Unfortunately it was damaged before Victor could use it resulting in the creature being homicidal. However whenever it confronted Victor there was always a look of real hatred on its face which made it seem as though it still remembers Victor and what he did to it, even if everything else about the person it was is gone.
It was a nice little touch Lee added to his performance which made the creature’s interactions with its creator all the more interesting.
The next year Lee would go on to play Dracula again opposite Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
Lee’s performance as Dracula would go on to be the most celebrated and influential after Lugosi’s.
Its true that the overall image of Dracula such the cape, accent, and widow’s peak comes from Lugosi, but still a lot of what we think of the Vampire count comes from Lee too.
The fangs come from his Dracula for instance, as do the towering height and bloodshot eyes. Really the modern image of Dracula in some ways could be seen as an amalgam of Lugosi and Lee.
Also the idea of Dracula actively seducing his victims comes from Lee. Whilst Lugosi’s Dracula had been alluring neither he nor any other Dracula pre Lee was shown to sleep with his victims.
Lee’s Dracula even turned the act of being bitten by a Vampire into a sexual experience for the victims.
At the same time however Lee’s Dracula whilst bringing this aspect to the character was actually the least romantic Dracula. He was a vicious savage monster who regularly beat, tortured and even killed his wives and his servants.
Lee’s Dracula was a monster truly worthy of Vlad the Impaler. He fed men, women and children and infants to bats, he burned his own servants backs, impaled his wives, forced his own servants to consume a plague that slowly ate their flesh and even tried to wipe out humanity!
He was dangerous to everyone and everything around him.
Lee went on to reprise the role of Dracula in 6 sequels for Hammer as well as more faithful adaptation of Stokers novel directed by Jesse Franco.
Though Lee himself was often unhappy with the Dracula films he made I think they still hold up as classics of the genre and if you haven’t seen them I really cannot recommend them enough. The character of Dracula I feel has been too romanticized in recent years and so Lee’s Dracula who truly is a savage animal, roaring and hissing and tossing his victims across the room, off the tops of buildings and choking them to death really reminds you of what the character was supposed to be, a vicious, arrogant, bloodthirsty monster that felt he was above all of humanity.
Lee would go on to play other iconic horror characters such as the Mummy in the film of the same name made by Hammer studios where he acted opposite Peter Cushing. Though they were often the bitterest of enemies on screen, in real life the two men were very close friends.
Lee also played Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde in an adaptation produced by Hammer rival Amicus called I Monster again opposite Peter Cushing as the professor who kills the monster at the end of the film.
Lee also played Fu Manchu in various films though sadly as I haven’t seen them I cannot comment.
One of his most famous roles was as the Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun.
The Man with the Golden Gun is not that highly regarded Scaramnga is still one of the most famous Bond villains.
A suave, skilled hitman who is a genuine rival to Bond in every way, he is a more subdued villain than some of Bond’s other more colourful enemies. He doesn’t seek world domination or ultimate power. He is just a sadistic hitman who loves his job.
Lee’s own personal favourite villain role was as the pagan Lord Summerlie in The Wicker Man. Long considered to be one of the greatest British horror movies ever made, Lee is absolutely superb at portraying a truly fanatical character who genuinely doesn’t believe he is doing anything wrong when burning a man to death.
In the later years of his career Lee was probably best known for appearing in both The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises.
Naturally both of his roles were villainous, Saruman and Count Duku.
Of the two characters I much preferred Saruman as I feel he was much more menacing. The scene where he thrashes and tortures Gandalf played by Ian McKellen is brilliant as it really shows you how dangerous and twisted a villain he is.
Lee never retired and kept on working until his death aged 93 in 2015. Indeed he even released a Heavy Metal album not long before his death.
Whilst he did play many non villainous roles such as Mycroft Holmes and Muhammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistani’s founder (which he considered his most important role.) Ultimately he was really the ultimate villain actor having played more villains than anyone else.
It feels weird when you see him as the good guy. He was the true Prince of Darkness and the greatest villain actor of all time in my opinion.
Patrick Troughton/ Scars of Dracula
Troughton plays Klove Dracula’s much abused manservant. Dracula, beats him, whips him and burns his back with a searing hot piece of metal. Klove eventually stands up to him but he ends up being tossed off the top of Castle Dracula by the count himself.
Edward Woodward/ The Wickerman
Poor Seargent Neil Howe played by Woodward is lured to the island as he is the right kind of adult for them to use in their sacrifice, and burned to death in a Wickerman.
No one who ever saw the film could forget Howe’s screams as the flames engulf him.
Caroline Munro/ Dracula AD 1972
Probably the most famous Dracula kill in the whole film series. The image of Lee tearing her throat out is often used to depict Dracula more than any other.
The only bad thing about this brilliant scene was that Caroline Munro was out of the film too early.